Such an exquisitely fast learner, his child was.
And so devoted. Among the memories Godric truly treasured - a tinier mesh with time, as the excitement of yesterday always, inexorably, became the tedium of tomorrow - the night when his first child had been born still shone, unblemished by the millennium that had followed. Not so much because it had been his first, but because he had known at once that it was unique.
He had bristled with long-forgotten human pride when Eric opened his eyes for the first time as a vampire, sparing all of a moment for a last remnant of timidity, and then proceeding to flex fingers and feel arms and legs and pull at his own hair. It was when Eric had frozen with a lock of hair between his fingers, staring at the paste of dirt and blood in it, victory shooting out of his eyes, that Godric knew he had made the right choice. Barely born and Eric was no longer Death's companion. Eric had become Death's superior, Death's cheater, Death's better.
And then, at last, Eric's eyes had turned to him. His lip had twitched, perhaps struggling with a variation on 'Thank you', and his demeanour, so defiant only now, swayed in doubt.
Reaching for his human recollections, Eric had opted for familiar ground--he scrunched up his considerable frame and looked down, head bobbing slightly in a warrior's nod. How awkward the Viking in him must have felt in this submission, so soon after having vanquished that greatest of enemies, Death.
Godric had been much vainer then, and very excited at the prospect of a companion after long centuries of solitude, so he had waited steadily for his child's next move, scanning him with the sort of expectation a human father might have felt about a son's first steps. It didn't matter that his lack of reaction added to Eric's discomfort. Godric had not been an accommodating vampire then, and he wanted to see what his child was made of before he started molding him.
Eric had reached further and further down, experimentally, somewhat spastically, until at last he had bowed fully, his knee touching the wood that would no longer show him into Valhalla. For a moment, Godric wished he could see Valhalla, just so that he could laugh in its face and shout at the gods within that they had lost, that every deity that refused to acknowledge his existence and that of his kin had lost, that he had stolen this one from them.
He reached out, resting a hand on Eric's shoulder and noting the slight ripple running beneath the fabric. What an interesting little cub he had, he thought, trailing his fingers along the side of Eric's neck, towards the spot that had signaled the end of Eric's human existence. The wound had already closed. Eric looked up and placed his hand over Godric's. His lips parted in an open smile, one that Godric cherished most, for he now knew that he would not witness many. Eric's smile tended to come out as a bit of a leer. On the rare occasions when he actually grinned, it was solely for Godric. There was something appealing in the idea that Eric's smile was, in fact, his.
His child loved him already, then. And all that Godric had had to do was kill him.
Godric thought that he might just be rather fond of his child too.
Godric sometimes wondered if every maker balanced out his child's traits so heartily. He found himself laughing more because Eric rarely did (even when he was joyful, which was rare; Eric could be exasperating sometimes), exuberantly telling stories of his past in the continent because Eric's storytelling was so monosyllabic (Godric rather hoped that the quiet, sulky stage would pass quickly, never to return), killing more and more viciously because Eric still resembled a human warrior far too much for his own safety--when Eric killed he still used his sword, swiftly and cleanly, giving Godric an urge to take hold of that sword and sharpen it on their prey's bones.
When Godric half tore a human's scalp before descending on his jugular, he told himself that he was teaching his child self-preservation. He wasn't entirely comfortable with the thought that had done it mostly for the gleam of admiration on Eric's eye. He was beginning to feel that, at times, he was more concerned about his child's needs than his own.
To counter this feeling, he sometimes sent Eric on his way, to hunt or find shelter on his own. He would happily have stayed by Eric's side, observing every thought process (he had, after all, never witnessed the awakening of a vampire other than himself), but he needed, as never before, to reconnect with himself, as well as teach his child that a vampire's only priority is himself.
He needn't have bothered, being as it was that Eric was the most self-effacing, the most deferential of children--at least in his experience: none of the vampire children he had ever met were remotely as endearing as his Eric. None of them ever stopped in their tracks to stare at their makers with the affection with which Eric gazed at him. Godric quite liked Eric's gaze. He hoped that he had never returned it quite so transparently.
'Eric, there is a human in the vicinity. Find him. Leave your sword.'
Some other times, he would test Eric's resilience. Because he could, but also to reassure himself that he wasn't becoming too attached to his child. He had seen the minds of makers and children alike be broken by separation--and separation always came. It had come for him, and it would for Eric. Godric would not be broken.
So, he had taken to disappearing. The first time he had vanished in thin air with Eric's sword, it was very close to dawn, and he could feel Eric's jolt of panic at finding himself alone and unarmed. Eric's increasing unease slithered under Godric's skin, a bit like a trapped animal's keening, which one can never unhear, and Godric had a frightful urge to go back to Eric's side. He must learn, he reminded himself, walking until the feeling in his insides was just light discomfort.
When he returned, Eric did not smile, but the way his face lit up gave Godric all the motivation he needed to disappear again, and again. He was rather pleased that he had found someone who gave him with such strong sensations. It had been a while.
'Good work, Eric. This is an excellent location,' he praised, handing back the sword. 'But you were unarmed. Why are your fangs not out?'
As with all things, a moment came when testing Eric ceased to be amusing. That moment was the day Eric decided to pay a visit to his former village. Godric had no particular reason to deny him, so they went. It had been years since Eric's death. Not so long that the place was unrecognisable - in fact, some of the fair, sturdy villagers they observed had clearly once been Eric's progeny. They looked older than him now, but the resemblance was uncanny. Eric saw it too. Never before that night had he shown interest in looking at his own reflection in the waters.
They spent the day not far from the village, Godric charging himself with food whilst Eric secured their shelter against the sunrise. When Godric returned with an unfortunate human, an unknown sensation welled up inside him. Eric was in a state of distress that Godric could not name. As he approached, a new, odd sound erupted from his child's lips. Eric had retreated to the farthest, most ensconced corner he could find and had begun to weep.
Godric couldn't recall a moment when he himself had wept, even when he was alive, and that the child he now knew so well had thought to do so, hidden from him, now of all moments, made every one of Godric's senses tingle in the most unsavoury manner.
For the first time since Eric had been born to him, he did not acknowledge Godric's arrival. He wept and wept, and slowly Godric decided that the scene displeased him. He made throaty, hitched sounds that grated on Godric's ears because they were ugly, he wiped frantically at his tears as though they burned him, spreading trickles of blood and sweat and saliva over himself, he hissed and gasped and groaned at the same time, coughing up drooly, senseless words haphazardly, and generally looked like he had no idea what he was doing.
His own mortality had fled him too long ago for Godric to empathise with this. For a moment he stood there, utterly unmoved, wondering if he could command Eric, as his maker, not to feel for his lost family. He remained silent, for he recognised a slinky inner voice coiling up to command that Eric feel for no-one other than Godric, and those were words he would not utter under pain of death. A thousand years don't go by without the permanent shutdown of some emotional extremes.
Ultimately, he decided to let Eric weep. To let him adequately bury his recollections. They were no threat. None of the mortals had ever, could ever give Eric what Godric had given him.
As the day wore on, the sound of Eric's prolonged farewell began to sound downright offensive to Godric's ears. That Eric would so mourn the loss of his mortality. The loss of those who did not shield him from harm in the battlefield. That he would feel more intensely about his former family than he did about Godric.
That he could still shed tears, and that he shed them for people who were not Godric.
He shut out the sound until nightfall. At the very moment the last ray of sun hid from the earth he slipped out, leaving Eric to his - much more controlled - hiccups. He really was the fastest of learners.
He returned with one of the villagers, dumping him unceremoniously between himself and Eric. The man had been so badly mauled that his face was unrecognisable, but the adorned handle of his dagger shone familiarly, and Eric stopped weeping long enough to acknowledge both the weapon and the deranged air about Godric's face.
Godric drank without taking his eyes off Eric, daring him to strike, daring him to feel more for the corpse than for his maker. Eric stared at the scene, at the blood trickling along the man's neck and onto the ground where they slept, and Godric's senses now picked up on an unease of a different nature. Inside Eric's very still frame now bubbled fear. Intense, irrational fear of oblivion, of irrelevance, fear that his immortal status might not be permanent--or that it might not be enough. That Godric might dispose of him as easily as he had made him, that he might not be strong, or sharp enough to navigate the waters of this new world of theirs.
Lifting his lips off the body, Godric waited until his child's eyes met his again, and then he gave the teeniest smile. Again the gleam in Eric's eyes. Excitement, and admiration for Godric's age, his strength, his disconnect--just like that, Eric was his again.
To Godric's knowledge, Eric had never cried again.
As they travelled down the continent (towards all those civilisations Eric had only known as plundering targets, Godric had said; as far away as they could go from the tempting echoes of Eric's past life, he added to himself when self-honesty struck), Godric preened inwardly at the unending chamber of marvels that he was to his child. Eric's was endlessly curious about Godric's travels, why he had gone north ('The midnight sun. I was too old to live without having seen it.'), the places he had been. Even then, he had known better than to enquire about Godric's own maker or Godric's human life. If Godric never mentioned it, that meant it was not to be brought up.
In all of his thousand years, Godric had never felt as powerful as when Eric gazed at him in such awe.
So he talked and talked, adding layers upon layers of details, because they made Eric's eyes shine, and Godric thought that Eric looked quite pretty when his eyes shone. Godric had always been a bit of a hedonist, and what better companion for a hedonist than a tense-browed, bright-eyed Viking with curious lips that barely suppressed the quiver of unasked questions?
There was pragmatism in Eric's curiosity--now that he felt and thought like a vampire, he wanted more than lore. He wanted to learn the rules of his world ('Are there any lands for us? Are there chieftains there? Laws that we must follow?').
Godric knew that his open pride of Eric's interest in power was a step into uncertain terrain. Too many makers had met their demise trying to pave the way to power for their children--too many had been blinded by the honey in their children's words. But there was never any honey in Eric's words, and Godric was proud, and frankly, he was too old to bottle up the few thrills that he had left.
'There are written and unwritten laws, Eric. The written laws usually outlive those who made them. The unwritten laws we make for ourselves, and they'll only outlive us if we're foolish. As for land... we have the world.'
The one trait Eric had unburied from his human past was an inexplicable interest in women, and an inordinate need to exercise that interest in the human way.
Godric didn't feel very strongly about it at all--he was happy to indulge his child with an occasional treat, in the understanding that gathering "treats" was to be Godric's responsibility alone and that the best among them would be kept for a few days rather than immediately drained. If Eric had his way, he would relieve entire villages of their women within a night, and even a vampire as old as Godric had limited power against a thousand crossbows and the maddened populace wielding them. The fire in Eric's eyes whenever Godric plopped an unconscious female form on him was a sight worth beholding (how often had Godric glamoured women into his child's clutches just for that second when Eric's gaze burned for him, and not yet for the prey?), and Godric certainly didn't object to sitting in and observing those fleeting moments when Eric was all sense and no rationality.
That said, even to his proud eye Eric was not an interesting lover. The whole thing just looked rather messy, and Godric had come from a time and place when mating was, if not necessarily more pleasurable, at least infinitely more interesting than the hapless, animal rutting that Eric performed. And afterwards, just as Godric found himself bored into a half-slumber, Eric always looked absurdly proud of himself. He would eventually have to teach his child a thing or two about the matter before he metaphorically expired of ennui.
One day, when Eric's enthusiastically ramming body was sufficiently near that Godric would bother moving, he stood and grasped Eric's shoulder. He waited for Eric to come out of his daze and eye him, and then pulled him away from the woman, who dangled awkwardly between Eric's twisted frame and the wall. Godric didn't look at her, focused as he was on the mounting confusion on Eric's face. When he sensed that the uncertainty was beginning to be drowned by displeasure, he let his fingers slide from Eric's shoulder and traipse along the length of his neck, and into his hair.
Eric's neck, along with the rest of him, could not have been tenser, yet Godric thought that he could spot an infinitesimal difference in the set of the jaw, the curling of the fingers. He took his time learning the contours of Eric's scalp, the shadows dancing along the muscles in the back of his neck, rippling with every new inch of Godric's discovery in spite of Eric's best efforts to remain still. He knew, he could feel it in his veins that Eric was frantically guessing at his intentions. It was a rare, usually ominous, occasion when they touched. Eric was not used to being touched. Eric was certainly not used to Godric's breath on his neck. He wasn't used to Godric's breath at all.
Utterly silent seconds passed, and just as Eric seemed to lean into his touch, Godric fisted his hair, pulling the blond head back against his bared fangs. With the surprise, and the sting of the bite, Eric's own fangs retracted, but in a flash they were out again--through them came out a growl that Eric's throat had never before produced and he twisted into an impossible position to regain his balance. His leg muscles tightened and shook, and the woman's thigh slid down from where it had been around his hip. Godric replaced it there, lifting his lips from his child's neck and running his tongue very lightly over the closing wounds. They never did that.
'It is not in good form to simply pound into a lover. It bores me,' he chided gently.
Eric blinked in complete bafflement and Godric steered him ever-so-slightly towards the woman, walking away and leaving them to their business.
His life had been quite incomplete without that growl.
Sometimes, Eric was too fast a learner. At one point in the following days, Godric spotted what he thought he could adequately describe as too much contentment in the way Eric and his woman touched each other. Godric suddenly felt very hungry.
'I'm sorry, Eric. She smelled too good. I'll bring you another one tomorrow.'
Never again did one of their lady guests last more than a day.
It was a bitter winter in Central Europe, and mankind in general had made itself scarce. The moonlight filtered through the trees to where they sat, outside an unfortunate couple's country estate. Between owners and servants, they had had a bit of a feast a few nights ago, but the fairly significant size of the place meant that they could not remain there much longer. Someone was bound to notice the consistent lack of, well, life, and it wasn't worth the risk. They had already risked capture more than once in recent times--one of which they had only escaped because Eric had finally understood that fangs were more effective than swords--and even the revolutionary winds wafting from Italy were slow in reaching the inner corners where they liked to dwell. Lacking witches, the humans would gladly settle for a vampire or two.
Perhaps they could give it another few days. Eric sat in silence, gazing at the moon, lost in thought, very dapper in his "borrowed" clothing. Godric, who had not forgotten the silver cross melting into his skin during their latest narrow escape, rewound the farmer's untimely end in his mind, at the same time as he carved the man's stake.
'You'll end up impaling yourself.'
Godric raised the small stick to the moonlight. 'How long do you suppose this'll keep me dead? Five minutes?'
'I don't want to find out.'
'You can bite me to bring me back and then you'll be my maker.'
Eric gazed silently back at the moon.
Godric was restless. They had found themselves a new, fairly acceptable manor, but
winter was harsher still, and whereas it made their stay safer, it also meant that this time they were actually beginning to be hungry. There was no use in wasting their energies in hopeless hunts--the area was deserted.
He did not like to go hungry. Eric did not enjoy sitting aimlessly around, but he had decided to pass the time learning the country's language, and the house's library provided him with more than enough distraction. Godric, who already spoke the language as though he were a native, had very little in the way of amusement. He detested having nothing to do.
'Are you hungry?'
Godric didn't reply.
'You can feed off me.'
'You need your strength,' Godric deadpanned.
'Don't you always say I'm young and sturdy? You, on the other hand...'
'How about I start with your tongue?'
'You're losing your sense of humour, Father.'
Later on that particularly chilly evening, Eric was dozing off by the edges of their new abode's fountain, feeling really quite hungry. They really ought to have saved the cook for later. The way his badly-accustomed body screamed for new blood didn't allow for deep sleep, so he hovered between rest and alertness, which he hated because it brought back echoes of long nights preceding a battle, and he no longer felt any connection to those times. He would eventually have to go off in search of a human somewhere but, for the time being, the frozen grass and the half-shaded moon were just too appealing, and he stayed put.
Not much later, an odd little image crept behind his eyelids. Godric crouching before him and staring. It had been so long since Godric had last needed to flex a muscle that Eric doubted he could still bend that far, but dream-Godric was quite nimble. He had fixed his gaze, a bit of a glare really, on a point in Eric's chest, and Eric drowsily wondered if this was a twist on the night he had been turned.
Then, there was a rustle of clothing and a tightening around his shoulders indicated that his shirt was no longer in its rightful place. Eric wriggled, adapting to it, and dream-Godric cocked his head. There was something faintly troubling about lying sleepily with his torso exposed to a sardonic gaze, even if it was a dream and the gaze was his maker's.
'What are you looking at?'
'Your scars,' dream-Godric deadpanned, reaching for his face. 'I'd missed this one.'
His fingertips slipped softly behind Eric's left ear, caressing the ridge at the base of his scalp. If he hadn't known before, now Eric was sure this was a dream. Godric didn't like scars. These days, he didn't like anything that was less than pristine.
'I like this one. It's well hidden.'
'Hmm,' Eric rumbled, the light scratch of Godric's fingernails reaching the marks on his chest.
'Now, why would you hold onto this?' Godric murmured.
'Well, I can't tear them off,' Eric mumbled reasonably.
'Really?' Godric said softly, lifting the Viking horn and making it gleam in front of Eric's half-shut eyes. 'Why not?'
Well, that sobered him up a bit. 'Godric?'
'Shhh.' Godric twirled the pendant between them as though its very existence offended him, and then looked over Eric's shoulder at the frozen fountain.
'Silence,' Godric snapped.
Eric obeyed. When had he not? The necklace digging into his neck in Godric's grasp suddenly felt slightly... real.
'If I asked you to give me this necklace, would you?'
'Do you want it?'
'I abhor it.'
There was still something of the Viking in him, after all. 'I abhor the ink on your body, but I do not ask that you wash it out.'
'The ink on my body, as you call it, is a mark of divinity, not mortality.'
Eric didn't quite know what to say to that. Perhaps the lack of nourishment was affecting Godric's mind?
'Please,' he said, putting forth his arm as much as the mussed shirt would allow, 'feed.'
'No.' Godric dropped the pendant, all interest in it gone. As it fell, it grazed one of the scars that so displeased him.
Was this a test to his loyalty? Eric grasped the necklace, and just as he began to say that his maker could have it, he could have anything he wanted, Godric seized his jaw, puckering up Eric's lips rather comically.
'I asked you to be quiet,' he reminded him softly through gleaming fangs.
Eric waited as Godric studied his scrunched up face.
Casting another quick glance over Eric's shoulder, Godric brought his cheek up to his own and whispered in his ear, 'Anything?', in a tone so innocent, so full of expectation, that one would have thought he was the child and Eric the maker. 'I can have anything...?'
When have I ever denied you?, Eric wanted to say, but the words wouldn't come out. What was Godric going to ask of him? That he went away? That he self-immolated? Was Godric tired of him, did he want another child?
Godric's fang brushed his earlobe, and Eric began to think maybe Godric simply wanted to do with him as Eric had seen him do with other men on the rare occasions when he indulged. Godric's fingers were now on his scars, and his fangs dragged along the length of Eric's forehead, and down the side, pausing a hair's breadth from Eric's own. When Godric spoke, they grazed Eric's lips.
'Lie down on the fountain.'
Was that a joke?
'Lie down. On the fountain,' Godric repeated, his voice depleted of all playfulness.
Maybe Godric had lost his mind, after all. 'The ice is too thin.'
'It is not.'
'It will break.'
'You do not trust me,' Godric noted, sounding more accusatory than hurt.
'I will freeze.' And then, while he went through the torturous, painful recovery, Godric would be off. A dismissal for a dismissal--he much preferred a clear one.
Godric let go of him and sat back, refocusing on the Viking necklace for a moment. 'I see I wasn't alone in losing my sense of humour.'
'What is it, then?' he hissed, pressing up against Eric like a cat mid-pounce.
Defeated, Eric hoisted himself up on his elbows, and then gripped the ledge, heaving himself onto it. With every inch of his back that scraped the frosty stone, bunching the shirt around his waist, an inch of his chest would scrape against Godric's fangs. He could feel the wetness of a spider-web-thin trail of saliva on his skin. Godric's deceitfully young arms were braced on either side of him, and Eric's skin rippled from the proximity. This was the sort of scene that Godric saved for his men, not for him and, even in his utter devotion, Eric had always had trouble understanding why so many of them so easily bent, sometimes literally, to Godric's will.
But why would they not, really?, he thought, lowering himself with great care onto the icy sheet that covered the basin. Once Godric had as much as cast them a glance, shown interest in any way, how could those men even consider denying him? He could barely conceive of it, he who wouldn't even bring himself to touch... The ice crackled underneath him, an ominous sound in the silent garden, and he tentatively adjusted his position, willing his weight to shift in a way that did not end with him being loosened from a block of ice by the morning sun.
When he felt that it was somewhat safe, he raised his head to face Godric in defiance. Would that be all? A corner of his mind wondered if the lack of fresh blood had rendered him delusional.
'All of you, Eric,' Godric pointed out, casually placing a hand on Eric's thigh and kneading it lightly as a hint. The surprisingly gentle (as comatose-inducing acts went) touch reached Eric through the fabric. Spreading his arms and fingers so as to gain some sort of leverage without actually digging his elbows into the pit of pain that awaited underneath him, Eric slithered along the basin until no part of him had access to firm, dry ground, and he closed his eyes. He could feel the different texture as the ice crackled and splintered on, waiting to engulf him.
He only knew Godric had shifted when his ill-tempered voice resonated just above his face.
'Ah, the Viking trinket. How I loathe it.'
Eric opened his eyes. Godric knelt daintily beside him, looking not at all concerned with the ice and very much like the excitable boy who had lured him away from Death's arms so very long ago.
'Do you know what I have?' Godric asked airily, pulling out a necklace of his own. A fang-shaped pendant not too different from his dangled from it. But Godric's was made of wood, and it reminded Eric of a miniature stake, and he had the urge to recoil from it. 'I carved it out of that stake. Curious, isn't it? It was going to kill us--and now I can defend myself with it,' he added, prodding Eric's stomach.
Eric drew in a sharp, deep breath to put as much distance between his skin and that thing as he could, ice be damned. Godric smiled and rested the stake--fang--on Eric's navel, making it stand on it.
'You don't like it?'
Eric's mind was too full of the feel of a pointy stick on his skin for him to reply.
'No,' he finally rasped out.
'Why not?' Godric enquired sweetly, removing the stake--fang--from Eric's navel and running it along the pelvic bone that peeked out of his rumpled waistband.
Eric cursed inwardly. He knew he had to work on his skills for rhetoric under pressure --they weren't yet good enough that he could frisk his mind for wit when sharp wood was being pressed against him.
'Does it bring back bad memories?' Godric continued, moving that wretched thing lovingly along Eric's side, and down the other, and back to his abdomen. 'Would you perhaps like me to put it away?'
Yes, Eric said soundlessly.
'And how... terribly... offended... will you be... if I don't?' The stake--fang!-- returned to its course, along the pelvic bone and up the side, but this time scratching the skin. 'How... angry?'
The sound of his skin ripping under the wooden tip was louder in Eric's ears than Godric's voice, and it took a real effort for him to focus his eyes on Godric's.
Eric didn't even know what the question was any more, but it didn't matter, because Godric had slipped into a language Eric hadn't yet learned, and he didn't seem to be expecting a reply.
All at once, a whiff of blood invaded his nostrils. It was instantly gone, but not before Eric registered it as his own. In a supreme effort, he raised his head, noting but no longer caring that the move sent his shoulder blades sinking considerably into the ice. The wooden fang wormed a trail along his torso, drawing bloody dots so tiny that they retreated into the healing skin even before they had fully surfaced. But he could smell them, and feel them, and it brought his senses to an overload. Godric gazed at the droplets as though he had never before seen blood.
At one point, he pressed more deeply and one, two, three drops whirred along Eric's abdomen, disappearing into the ice. He could feel each of them leaving his body. Between hunger, bleeding and the heightened reaction to Godric's knee brushing against his hip, he really did not need any more weaknesses now.
'What did you say, Eric?'
He wasn't aware that he had said anything.
Godric sat delicately astride him, leaning in to appreciate the wooden fang's progression on his neck, a bit like a painter observed a detail on canvas. Eric's face turned to his.
'Is there anything you want to say?' Godric picked up Eric's pendant and aligned it with his own, smudging it with blood and holding the set in front of Eric's nose. Eric's tongue tumbled against his teeth, trying to reach out for the blood.
Godric smiled, and his legs tightened against Eric, sending his lower body as deeply into the ice as the rest of him. Eric couldn't feel the cold, but he felt the wetness. And how insignificant it was when he also felt the touch of Godric's legs, and Godric's hand shredding his skin, and his eyes boring into Eric as though he were a work of art. Suddenly, it was eerily like a dream again, with Godric looking at him as he never had before, and it did not feel wrong at all.
The wooden fang hit a vein and he hissed, pleasure and pain and frailty shooting through him for all of a moment before the wound closed. Water swiveled to the surface, wetting the ends of his hair and softening the icicles that jabbed his skin.
'Do you want to get up?' Godric asked, sounding as if the possibility had only just occurred to him.
Yes, he meant to say, but the word got lost on its way when another vein was hit and Godric brought both necklaces to it, letting Eric's blood pour over them. He aired out the pendants, watching intently as the very dry wood absorbed Eric's blood and darkened into a richer brownish-red tone.
'Look,' Godric said excitedly. 'Now I have a Viking trinket too. Well, my trinket has a bit of Viking in it, at least.'
Eric looked away, sucking in his cheeks and hoping that the wound closed already, before he tucked into his own flesh.
Godric looked sweetly up at him. 'Are you angry at me?'
No. In all fairness, he didn't know what he was, but that was the word that his pale, starved lips tried to form. Godric ran the horn and the fang over them, smearing them in a tiny rivulet of blood.
'Will you want to leave me when dawn comes?' The question was the most caressing of murmurs, but Godric's eyes burned unmistakably. Eric had not known that he could leave his maker.
He did not get a chance to say it, however, for a moment later, grinning as if he had only just had the best idea of his life, Godric brought the wooden fang to his own lips, coiling the tip of his tongue around it without taking his eyes from Eric's own transfixed gaze. Pursing his lips around it, Godric pushed sharply. Blood immediately pooled around the corners of his mouth.
Eric's hand flew up to pull it back out, and Godric let it. Whereas the fang wasn't long enough to do as much damage as a stake, the pain must have been blinding, for Godric blinked tremulously, clenching his muscles into essentially crushing Eric's hipbones.
Registering that his maker was still all there, Eric actually breathed out in relief. Godric scowled at the human reflex. He leaned in and ran his tongue along Eric's lips, blending their blood and pushing it tentatively into Eric's mouth.
Blood. Godric's blood. In his mouth. Eric had never been so hungry. He had never been... his thought process slipped away as Godric's tongue pushed against his, preventing itself from sealing up.
Eric held onto his self-control as much as he could--longer than anyone else would, he liked to think. He gripped the wooden pendant in his fist as tightly as possible, shifting it so that it would pierce his skin and give him something else to focus on. Godric's tongue coated his with a layer of blood. He pressed himself against the ice, this time positively willing it to swallow him whole before he drained his maker. Godric's tongue ran over his teeth, layering them with blood so aged, so addictive, that Eric suddenly pictured himself, centuries in the future, searching hopelessly for something to match it. The wound was closing. If he could hold back just another second... Godric's hands reached up for Eric's head, delving into his hair and holding him in place while his lips closed against Eric's in something less like a blood exchange and more reminiscent of a...
And then he lost it. It wasn't even a conscious move. Before he knew it, his fangs were out, one of them digging into Godric's sealing tongue, and his free hand was on Godric's shoulder, clamping him in place. Godric could have flicked him away like an insect, but he didn't, and Eric was so beyond everything at that point that this particular detail only made it through his fuzzy mind much later.
Godric's hands were soft in his hair, and Godric's lips were soft on his-even the way his blood poured down Eric's throat was somehow soft, masking the superhuman strength beneath the delicate features. It was not Eric's rebellious hand keeping Godric in place. It was Godric's body keeping Eric where he wanted him. Godric's legs shifted against his, effectively cracking the ice and drenching them both.
Suddenly, the pain of freezing and the torture of unfreezing seemed like a small price to pay. So it wasn't just languid glances and quirked lips and the occasional glamour that drew people to Godric. His legs touched the bottom of the basin and the splintered sheet of ice dug into the small of his back, but Godric's fingers were actually caressing his hair, and even meeting the sun would have been worth it then.
His partners' eyes sometimes rolled back into their heads, and it had always seemed very odd to him. But he wondered if he was doing it himself now, for all of a sudden he couldn't see. Or if he could, nothing registered. It was strange how he could feel his normal energy levels returning with the blood influx at the same time as Godric seemed to be draining him of all said energy. He stiffened against Godric, and at least for that moment he would pretend to himself that the momentary ripple running through Godric's legs wasn't just his imagination.
He could feel himself tighten, his rejuvenated veins straining against his flesh, he could even picture a heartbeat there where he knew he had none, because he really, truly, felt alive.
Ever so slowly, Godric's mouth retreated, drifting away from his as Eric stared at it with glazed eyes.
'There,' the mouth said gently, 'that should keep you standing for a few more days.'
Eric rather thought that he would be up for at least a decade. He actually tilted his neck upwards and gave a few short, spastic sniffs that made Godric's lips quirk just so. He was kept at a short distance, watching as Godric's bruised lips healed and the tip of his tongue flicked out, very very whole, and very very teasing. Godric's hands left Eric's hair and spidered down his chest, lingering down at the spot where his blood met water.
Eric's eyes definitely rolled back into his head at that point. Sparing a very quick glance for Godric's angelic smile, he reached out and grazed Godric's neck with his bloodied fangs, feeling him tense against his mouth.
Tense, but not retreat.
Breathing in the scent of that unblemished skin just above the tattoos, Eric dragged his lips apart and bit down. Godric's fingers dug into his skin, and he sank his teeth in as deeply as he could. Godric whimpered against his ear. Here was something he didn't do with his partners. Eric hoped, at any rate. And that was the last thing he hoped for, because then Godric was mimicking his gesture, and crushing him against the ice, and pushing him against the bottom of the basin.
The only indication that their twisted embrace had lasted for quite a while came when Eric's body began to stiffen in something that he seemed to remember was called hypothermia (or, as he called it, "Ouch"). Godric, who wasn't quite as affected by it, noticed it too. He removed his fangs from Eric's neck, hauled him up against himself and out of the water, and waited until Eric decided that he had had quite enough of his blood.
Eric looked a little bit drunk when his fangs finally retracted, but Godric didn't dwell on that for very long, because he was also beginning to look a bit blue. In the time he took to reopen his eyes, Eric found himself back in the house.
Even a few centuries later, he had never quite disentangled that night's facts from the figments of his imagination. He wasn't sure that he wanted to do so. For now, he settled on crediting it, whatever "it" had been, for his newfound ability to see beyond gender (it had certainly given him an interesting 17th century). If ever he felt the need to know what exactly had happened... he would eventually muster up the courage to ask Godric.
Godric began to realise something in him had started to shift when news came that one of Britain's colonies was rebelling and he felt absolutely no interest in seeing it from up close. Eric would have liked it, but Godric couldn't even fathom going through the trouble and the risk of a long sea trip just so they could be part of another massacre. Europe kept giving them more than enough choice in that respect.
He wondered if age was beginning to take its toll on him at last. It was very unlike him to reject the possibility of watching as a new civilisation emerged. At Eric's insistence, he eventually agreed to go there sometime in the future, if a new country did emerge from this new mess, provided they could be sure those Indians people talked about were kept well away from him. He was beginning to feel a bit too old to see the fun in dodging arrows.
Godric fancied himself a clever, acute, observant vampire. Even so, there were elements of human life that he would never, ever understand. For example, how mankind had gone from Roman baths to shivery dips in streams whenever the workload or the deity of the day allowed. Everything was just so filthy.
This rather tedious thought process struck him shortly after they had arrived in Paris, as he stood on something resembling a sidewalk, trying his very best to avoid touching the wall. Eric had joined the crowd and was enthusiastically helping them tear corpses apart. He towered over them, which at the moment meant only there was more dirt on him than on anybody else. The scent of stale blood wafted into Godric's nostrils and made them twitch in revulsion.
The upside was that if they were to join a revolution (albeit accidentally), there was no better place to be than Paris. At least there was perfume to be found. He had been part of so many national upheavals over the ages that the French one didn't particularly jolt his senses, but he was grateful for their perfume. He hoped that it wouldn't go out of fashion.
Eric, on the other hand, still felt a bit cheated out of the American Revolution, so he was quite enjoying the unexpected fray. Nothing excited Eric quite like "the fray", Godric considered, not without appreciation. It was a trait Eric had inherited from him.
But its appeal was wearing thin for Godric. He could foresee how it would all end already, and to be frank, nothing would ever quite match the fall of the Roman Empire.
'Fathers make sacrifices for their children,' he reminded himself as Eric spun around to wave a disembodied limb at him. Of course he was better at the sans-culotte frenzy than the actual sans-culottes. What else...?
'You need a bath,' he whispered, knowing the sound would carry to Eric's ears. 'How will you show your face at church looking like that?'
In the crowd, Eric laughed and, momentarily, the smell was easier to bear.
The woman's shriek carried through the halls. For the first time in quite a while, Godric felt a grin tugging at the corners of his lips. A second later, Eric barged in.
'It would seem you have met your match.'
Eric gestured angrily towards the source of the scream. 'I... she... why didn't you stop me?'
'I might have if you had informed me of what you were going to do.'
'The first few days are hardest. It will get better.'
The source of Eric's anger burst into the room much in the same way he had, destroying quite a bit of expensive furniture on the way.
'I wasn't like that when you turned me.'
'Well, I asked your opinion before turning you,' Godric pointed out, casting a glance at Eric's energetic progeny. 'Good evening, Pamela.'
She whirled around with her lips parted, clearly looking for an appropriate insult.
'It really is in your best interests to be polite to him.' Eric snapped.
'Good. Evening,' she clipped out, stomping back out of the room.
'Just teach her how to feed and let her tire. She'll be calmer once she's rested,' Godric said helpfully. 'She's just confused. You can tell there is joy in her.'
'What was I thinking,' Eric grumbled, walking out in search of his child and entirely missing the glum edge to Godric's voice.
Godric couldn't bring himself to like Pamela, or Pam, as Eric had taken to calling her, quite as much as she deserved. Both as a vampire and as a child, she was entirely adequate, but her arrival had signaled the beginning of a new era in Eric's life, one that did not include Godric. Eric had someone of his own to dote on now, and he did so unrelentingly (Eric had, of course, adapted to fatherhood as though it were his calling--how it surprised him not at all), casting aside his own instincts to hone Pam's--much like Godric had done all those centuries ago.
He would have liked to pin his disenchantment wholly on her but, compelled by the inconvenient penchant for fairness that had recently begun to surface in him, Godric had to admit that she was a symbol rather than a cause. The world, once sprawling and daunting, left him slightly weary and unimpressed now, whereas Eric still boiled with energy, with the same sharp curiosity that had led them through continents for so long. Pam was simply the most recent (if perhaps the most meaningful) tug at that curiosity, something that would always be new and exciting for Eric. She was neither new nor exciting for Godric.
He decided, then, that one last test to their ties was in order--no, not so much a test as an assessment. Something compelled him to return to his birthplace, which he had never revisited, and now it felt like it was the right moment to reassess his own individuality once again. He left without informing anyone.
In almost nine hundred years, he had never left his child's side for a long stretch of time, but his child had a child now. Circumstances had changed. During the first few nights, there was an uncomfortable silence where there used to be Eric's voice. He had to remind himself once or twice that he didn't have to watch over anyone other than himself this time. At home, his child must be embarking on the opposite journey.
He had forgotten how easily silence and solitude came to him.
Eric was angry upon his return. He had been worrying. He had also been kept in the dark, and Eric did not like to be kept in the dark. He would have accompanied Godric to world's end--had he not always been a compliant child (he found his own qualities all the more admirable now that he had the world's least compliant vampire girl as a child)? He still remembered his own painful return to his native village. Was Godric so alone in the world that he need go through that by himself?
'I haven't been, or felt the need to be alone since the night I made you,' Godric said calmly, sitting and watching as Eric deflated.
'And you do now.'
'Why.' There wasn't even a question behind the word, just the acknowledgement of the blow.
Godric shrugged very lightly. 'We need new emotions as we age, stronger ones. You know that--you made yourself a child. New emotions are hard to come by at my age. I thought I'd revisit the ones I had forgotten.'
'Have you revisited them now?' Eric ground out.
Godric didn't reply. Eric looked as if he was going to say something and then thought better of it. He turned to leave the room.
'I'm sorry I had you worried. It was not my intention.' Godric paused. He may have to lie a bit. 'I won't go away again without telling you. I promise.'
Eric nodded without turning to him.
'Which is why I'm telling you now. I think I'll pay a visit to that former colony we heard about. It seems things are a bit quieter there now.'
Lightning-bolt fast, Eric was kneeling beside him, studying his carefully crafted blank face before replying, 'We'll go with you.'
We. A word that no longer included Godric. 'Your child is too young for such a long journey.'
'She is strong. She will make it.'
'She will not survive.'
Eric struggled with the concept, but he knew Godric was right. Pam was too young, too fragile, too hungry still. The sea trip would be too much for her. And Eric would never risk his child's safety, even for Godric.
Even for Godric.
When Eric found the words again, they were pained. 'Am I being released?'
Godric's fingertips ghosted through Eric's hair, eliciting a shiver. Eric looked up. His child faced release in the eye, as he did everything. He lowered his head until his forehead almost touched Eric's in their own little gesture of affection, which they had repeated so often over the centuries. Eric's eyes bore into his with such devotion, every inch of his frame so hopelessly attached to him, that Godric was absurdly relieved. For a second, just a second, it had crossed his mind that releasing him might be the best option.
Eric's lips parted, letting out a tiny breath. Contrary to that long gone night when Godric had been brazen enough to curb his boredom by toying with Eric's feelings (would he ever atone for that?), this time the human gesture didn't anger him at all. Eric had always retained a little bit of his humanity, after all. He was beginning to think that Eric was so precious to him because of it, and not in spite of it.
'I would like you to join me there once your child is stronger. If you want.'
'I do,' Eric instantly replied. 'I will. We will.'
He threaded his hand through his child's blond hair again, thinking that it felt quite nice. Wonder why he hadn't done that more often while he had the chance, he mused, shifting in his seat and beginning to stand.
Eric leaned in, lowering his eyes as if he were ashamed of himself and moving his lips as though he were fighting to keep the words inside. His lips were so close to Godric's that he could feel them. The most unwelcome surge of emotion of Godric's life erupted in him like the proverbial lava. He was suddenly so jealous of all those who had ever caught or would ever catch Eric's attention. His human wife, his brothers-in-arms, his petulant child, his own past self. He pictured himself snatching what Eric was so movingly offering and marking him, burning through him, weaving through him so deeply that their scents would never break apart.
I'd like to spoil you for everyone else. Eric's neck just underneath his fingertips.
'You already have,' he heard Eric murmur in reply, and he froze, plummeting back into reality.
He had to go. For Eric's sake more than his, he took his time peeling his hands and gaze off Eric's body, and he stood. He had to twist around Eric's forlorn frame but at last he had reached the door and was out of the room.
'Why didn't you just release him?' an unkind voice asked when he had barely taken two steps down the corridor. Pam had detected her maker's distress and had come over to help him. Godric found her momentarily endearing, even if she did need to learn discretion.
'Because he is mine.' His tone left absolutely no room for argument, so he turned and left, hoping she would have the sense to not go to her maker yet.
If his life was headed in the direction he foresaw, a moment would come when he would need Eric to obey him unblinkingly, and Eric would not want to do so. He couldn't risk releasing him.
And that moment had come, atop a concrete roof in Dallas, with yet another shrill girl listening in and hoping to shield Eric from pain. It wasn't quite as Godric had envisioned the scene, but it was appropriate. Comforting, even. Dallas had been good to him. The new continent had been good to him--given him a last gasp, one last chance to enjoy eternity.
No, little girl, I didn't offer myself out of foolishness. You'd be amazed at how few options a powerful vampire has when he wants to die. V dealers, underlings and adversaries... which among them would risk an attempt on my life? Which of them would believe it wasn't a trap if I bared my chest and handed them a stake?
When the time had come when he could see himself for the sadistic barbarian he had been, he did so without self-pity, for there is no point in lying to oneself. He had hated what he had seen. He disgusted himself so deeply that sometimes he wondered how his body could still contain the putrefaction within. When synthetic blood had become available, he knew that History was bringing vampires and humans together as fiercely as it had once separated them, and he had been grateful for the chance to witness it.
I don't think like a vampire any more, but I still think like Eric's maker. He knows me so well. He knows even in the throes of delirium I wouldn't simply fall asleep outside and meet the sun with my eyes closed. He would have known. It would have broken him. He's not quite as impenetrable as he seems and it--I would have broken him.
And then, in his relatively quiet corner of the world, the Fellowship had risen, spurred on by his disregard of his underlings' sanguinary instincts. They wouldn't question his reasons. They would be pleased to act like they had captured him rather than opened the door to him. Eric needn't know. He would be gone before Eric knew. And after the first shock, Eric would be all right, fast learner that he was. He was already a better vampire than Godric had been at that ripe young age.
When both suicide and death by a friendly hand are taken from you, how do you put an end to an existence you cannot bear? I am tired. I am fortunate. I've seen and done everything. I've somehow even made myself loved.
He had made one foolish mistake. He had broken his promise to Eric. He had forgotten.
I should have said something. That I was travelling, perhaps. That I had a new lover and did not want to be disturbed. I forgot. I didn't think Isabel would inform Eric so swiftly. Didn't think he'd take her seriously.
No. He hadn't thought at all. It hadn't occurred to him. And it had been foolish, for he had always known that if anything could make him question himself, it was Eric, with his bright, devoted eyes and lips that had only ever trembled for him. So Eric had come, with shiny eyes and trembling lips and his life in his hands.
Human tears are seeing me off. I have more than I deserve.
Eric had given him the tiniest hint of a smile before the power of Godric's command forced him into safety downstairs, and Godric understood. He had often pictured Eric trying to make sense of their last exchange before his move across the ocean--of why he hadn't been released. He now knew, and Godric couldn't look him in the eye as he left. He should have known better.
Godric, alas, was not a fast learner at all.