His skin tickled as the summer air puffed softly past him, its way brightened by the mighty sun. The nostalgia that nestled within him even during the companionable warm nights eased its hold, kindly allowing him to greet dawn. Uncustomary laughter rippled in his veins and, just today, he let it out.
It was so quiet here, Godric thought, sitting on the damp, sandy rock. Just the rumble of the tide along the rocky shore and the stillness of his own presence. When they had arrived, he had not thought he might grow attached to the place. He still did not think of it in such strong terms. There had not yet been a moment when he felt comfortable in the deserted surroundings. Rather, he felt... drawn to them. At this time of the night, there was nothing beyond the glum murmur of the sea and the rasp of the sand, buffeted back and forth by the wintry breeze. It disconcerted yet humbled him, this feeling of partaking in a moment beyond even his considerable understanding.
In hindsight, it seemed to him those were very strong terms.
The rasp of the sand rose steadily into a gallop, breaking the lull of his thoughts. The stink of grimy, regurgitated blood crawled up his nose so fiercely he could almost feel his eyes water. All at once, he felt too drained to turn and face its source. He had a picture in his mind already. Blood-coated hair, the reddest of droplets artistically sprinkled up the arms, whirling up the shirt, itself soaked with the desperate sweat, maybe tears, of others. The collar clinging to the skin, darkened during the journey. Even at a distance, the chin would look sticky from the clotted blood. He felt as though the stale smell had slithered up his head and into the very roots of his hair.
'You're back,' he acknowledged, debating whether he should muster the energy to smile or to turn, and settling on the smile. 'I was beginning to worry.'
'You were not,' Eric countered at once, hurtling towards him with the carefree airiness of the well fed.
'You could have abandoned me for feistier companions.'
Eric's drunken laughter carried along the shore. While he could not say he ordinarily disliked the sound, tonight it made him feel quite tired, and he had to close his eyes for a moment. Tonight the weight of all his centuries had rounded on him at once.
'No-one is feistier than you,' Eric said affectionately, landing beside him with a hearty smack of wet fabric on rock. Now it was his turn to say something. To look at his child and compliment him on his well spent evening. He let his head tumble towards the source of the voice as his eyes cracked open.
It was an even more colourful image than he had pictured. He could hardly tell Eric's features apart for all the enthusiasm he had put into his feeding. His child appeared to have become a single, overlarge, boot-wearing burst vein.
'Did you make sure...?' he asked, practicalities easily overriding compliments. He did not have the energy to massage Eric's ego. Not tonight.
Uncertainty flickered for a second in his child's eyes, and Godric was surprised at how very inconvenienced he felt. Eric was not sure if he had left survivors. Godric would have to see to it himself that there were none.
He was so tired.
'I glamoured one. But only one,' Eric finally said, brightening up behind the grime and pointing to a spot up the shore where, presumably, a pretty girl stood, dead behind the eyes, unaware that she was enjoying her final moments. Godric could picture her rather well. 'For later. Like you said.'
Why did Eric make such a habit of misapplying his advice?
'How many people will be brandishing torches outside our doorstep at sunrise, Eric?'
'None,' Eric said heatedly. 'They'll be brandishing them at the wolves that tore their poor relations apart.'
He really had taught his child well. Godric wished he could have the energy to be proud. Eric's boastful feeding frenzies were starting to blend in his eyes. There was more artistry in the clean, exact strikes he had once dismissed as needlessly merciful. Surely, Eric could learn to find them appealing.
He had to come out of his daze—Eric was beginning to look concerned by his silence. Massaging his neck for wont of anything else to do, he repositioned himself and tried to look less exhausted than he felt. Where had all this weariness come from? It could not all be from boredom.
'I did it all properly,' Eric was explaining, sounding disappointed at his lack of enthusiasm. 'I did. No-one will come after us.'
'I just wish you could savour the moment a bit more instead of piling up the bodies the way you do.'
Something like a grin appeared beneath the blood as Eric recognised the beginning of a familiar lecture. 'I savoured them all,' he recounted delightedly. 'And they savoured me. Not a terrible end to the road—' His excitement faltered when Godric did not smile, and a rare moment of awkward silence passed between them.
Godric felt bad. He had not wanted to deflate Eric's enthusiasm. He was merely too weary to take part in it tonight.
'You are so dirty.' He affected a languid gaze and poured as much affection as he could into the words, hoping Eric would understand this was all he could muster.
'Let's go for a swim,' Eric suggested, his excitement returning as if on cue as he glanced at the waves foaming away into the sand.
'Your girl,' Godric reminded him.
'She can wait. Come, let's bathe,' Eric insisted, a second away from tugging at his sleeve.
In the very recesses of his mind, Godric recalled Eric's swaggering pride when they had tried their chances in that shrivelling cold fjord and Godric had been the first to leave the water. He had done it because Eric seemed so happy at the prospect of upstaging him just once, and it was such an insignificant little thing, after all. They hardly ever met other vampires Eric could challenge. There would be dark waters ahead if he did not bolster Eric's self-confidence every now and then. He had not expected his child to develop such a passion for bathing with him every time they happened upon cold water.
'I don't need a bath,' he said tiredly.
In a flash, Eric's hand rubbed along the front of his loose shirt, leaving trails of blood and sweat where there had been crisp whiteness. 'You do now.'
Normally, Eric would no longer be in a condition to speak at this point after smearing stale blood on him. He really must be quite drunk on all that blood to not even blink at the prospect of a cross Godric. His fangs instinctively itched to descend and the soft tenderness in his face evaporated, but tonight he could not bring himself to punish Eric for his drunken childishness. The moment had passed when he had allowed Eric's impertinent remark.
And Eric knew it. Godric could have sworn he had seen that devious smile on the lips of a naughty child once.
As he half-heartedly followed Eric into the sea, Godric had the vague feeling that he had set a dangerous precedent. Yet, as the first sizeable wave rolled towards him, the one thought in his mind was that he really wanted this to be a short swim.
The morning air would soon feel heavy, baking all who faced their daily duties. It would not be long until the distant rumble that cradled his awakening hardened into hostile clanging. Soon, he would lie alone and bloodied, ashamed of his fright. He breathed in the scent of the clear day. For now, there was only dawn.
Tonight, as it had been for weeks now, the breeze had given way to wind—an uncomfortably sand-heavy wind that should have sent him gratefully back into the house, and instead had his muscles grinding further into the sandy patch where he had found himself burrowing so often recently.
The house. Eric had handpicked it for the cold months solely because Godric had mentioned a predilection for the area. He owed it to Eric to appreciate it—for the perfectly adequate shelter it presented, if nothing else. Yet, of late, the house's handsome, honourable outline felt to him wholly at odds with the use they had given it, as though it dignifiedly disapproved of them both and awaited the return of its rightful owners.
The night of their rowdy arrival flashed in his mind in pornographic detail and he could not help but chide himself for not reigning in Eric. He ought to have requested that the little ones be spared. How boorish Eric could be, sometimes. Knowing that his child was no more and no less than what Godric had made of him was of little help to his mood tonight.
With a shrug, he led his thoughts down a different path. He had not been entirely blameless himself, enraptured as he had been by the thoughtfulness of Eric's gift, and Eric had been too hungry to draw out the affair very messily, anyway—it had all been for the best in the end, even if he had not anticipated their Parisian companion's early departure. Those first few nights alone, made lonelier by the endless parade of local women in Eric's bedroom, had not been as unbearable as he had feared. There had been enough solitude in his earlier centuries that he could welcome it as an old friend. It was a concept Eric had never fully grasped.
He struggled with Godric's frequent dazes, the stupors he fell into and then failed to explain, the casual way he forgot to eat until Eric asked. The constant fixed stares, charged with something Godric had not intended and Eric could not identify, those Eric simply could not handle.
None of it was ever voiced, of course, but the frustration was clear enough in Eric's demeanour, his bafflingly ill-disguised faces, that it made Godric too exhausted to explain that all was well, that there was no cause for concern. That he was not oblivious or unappreciative.
Yet, all was not well. He resented his conscience. Having the moral upper hand had begun to matter to him again, as it had so long ago, when he had flitted through his wretchedly short lifetime, but there was no moral upper hand for him now.
Tilting his head towards the house, he cast it a long glance. Behind the large bay windows, Eric was surely abandoning himself to the soft skin of another nameless, faceless beauty—walking past Godric in the hallway, he had half-heartedly offered to share. Godric did not recall dignifying the offer with a refusal before striding out.
The muffled sounds that reached him from Eric's room spoke of a thrill that he had not felt in a long while. For the first time since his tenderest youth, Godric felt just a little bit sorry for himself.
If only he had worked up the interest in tonight's hunt, all might have been well.
Someone called out angrily, and there was a panicked rush around him. The day had begun. Fear filtered into his perfect dawn and sank him once more into the wintry shore where he lay. The sand, dampened by the early tide, felt hard against his sides.
'What is it?' he asked moodily, refusing to open his eyes until the scent of olive trees overhead faded completely.
'What is it?' Eric retorted, more accusatory than Godric had ever known him. 'Open your eyes.'
His insolent child had chosen the moment to forget his place rather poorly, Godric thought impatiently. The smell of salt had replaced that of ripe fruit in his nostrils, and an odd, unappeasable frustration reared inside him.
He cracked his eyelids apart in an indecently slow movement, meaning to scorch Eric with a glance, and a spasm of unbidden panic shook him at the sight of the sharp blue tinge bordering the far end of the sea.
For a moment, he merely gawked, speechless, moved and marvelled by the intensity of his own fear. The gloomy clouds above their heads were so tiny a shield in face of that vivid blue. Oblivion looked far less friendly now that it gaped so near him.
'Thank you,' he said, realising Eric expected a reaction other than Godric relaxing back against the rock to stare mistily at the waves. 'I overslept.'
'You would have met the sun,' Eric snapped, his temper spiked by Godric's apparent calm. Tiredness rolled over him at the realisation that his child intended to quarrel.
'Such a fuss,' he said dully. 'I would have woken up.'
'Yes, under the—'
'You were kind to worry, and I have thanked you.'
'You were never this careless,' Eric began again, as though the sheer notion was too difficult to absorb. 'You almost—'
'I appreciate your dedication,' he cut in, hardening his tone, 'but not your haughtiness. I survived a thousand years without you. I can do it still. Remember that.'
An intensely awkward beat followed, the silence of which sounded glorious to his ears.
'It's beginning to rain,' Eric finally pointed out, needlessly, as the first drops met them. When Godric closed his eyes without replying, he added more urgently, 'And the sun is rising.'
'It won't be out for another hour at least,' Godric replied jadedly. Eric had spent enough time in the area that he should be more familiar with the rhythm of dawn. 'Run along. Let me enjoy the end of my night.'
'Can't you do it inside? Is our house so beneath your standards that you'd rather risk—'
'The house is fine,' he snapped, losing his patience. 'But I want to be here. Am I being unclear in any way, my child?'
Casting a wary glance at the horizon, Eric plopped down next to him. The sand had not yet settled around him when Godric added, frostily, 'I did not invite you to sit with me.'
'You changed,' Eric noted stubbornly. 'You were different before. You didn't sit alone all the time before—'
'Before what?' he clipped out.
Eric paused. He seemed to be choosing his words. 'What's the matter? Tell me. I will fix it.'
If the very sound of his child's pleading voice did not ring so irritatingly in his ears, Godric might have felt more charitable towards his misguided earnestness.
'The matter is that I need peace! I need to be able to gather my thoughts every now and then, not just feed and carry on. Sometimes I need to stop and reflect, talk and remember and observe. I need peace. I didn't before, but I do now. Can you understand that?'
'Come gather your thoughts at home,' Eric suggested meekly, stealing glances at the horizon.
Godric could have throttled him. 'Leave me alone, Eric. Leave me alone,' he repeated crossly when Eric tried to say something. 'Or at least be quiet. Please be quiet. Let me be.'
However, being quiet was not an art Eric had yet mastered. 'Do you want me to fetch him? I will,' he offered timidly. 'I'll bring him from Paris, if it'll help. It wouldn't take more than a night or two.'
He could not possibly have reacted differently, Godric mused later. The preposterousness of the idea was such that there really had not been a reasonable alternative. Eric, whom he had taught, groomed, admired, who had walked beside him longer than any being, living or dead, thought that he was pining for his companion. The only adequate response to that was to break into gales of laughter in his child's face.
'Will you?' he asked through his mirth, hiccupping mid-word. 'Will you really? By all means... If you fancy a trip to the capital, I will not stop you. Don't bother with him, though... I have no use for him. Maybe you could find him one?'
Eric looked humiliated, he observed, looking at him through blurry eyes. He should.
'No... You wouldn't. You didn't like him. You never like my companions,' he continued, wheezing painfully on as one does when the hilarity is gone, but it is impossible to stop laughing. 'You question my taste at every turn. And now my dignity. What will you question next? Ah, yes... my sanity. I must be such an appalling maker.'
His chest ached from all the hysterics, and Eric was beginning to look alarmed. Good.
'Is that really what you understand of what I said, Eric?' he asked more evenly, the laughter subsiding at last. 'You think I am forlorn because I have not lain with anyone lately? How astoundingly unsurprising.'
Eric lowered his eyes and Godric knew that, for once, his child had understood him correctly. How astoundingly disappointing.
'That's not what I meant,' Eric defended himself, blithely unaware that it did not matter what he had meant, it only mattered what he had said. If only he were quiet, Godric thought, if only he left him alone. How did one issue a command, again? He needed it so rarely with Eric that the wording sometimes failed him. He just needed his solitude for a bit, he needed to gather himself. He could feel himself starting to shake from anxiety. Eric was still talking. Why? What could he possibly think he still had to say that mattered?
'I am deeply offended that you think you can procure someone to heal me of my mood,' he barked, to shut him up. 'Or rather, to knead me into being more agreeable to yours. Have I not changed enough yet? Have I not done enough for you? What is left of me that you haven't taken, child? Must you begrudge me a handful of quiet moments of my own? Must you intrude in matters you cannot understand, you impudent, ignorant infant?'
Even that did not silence Eric, who valiantly tried to reaffirm his concern.
'Your heartfelt concern is of no use to me!' he snarled, boiling inside. 'You are of no use to me, if you know me so little after so long. Fetch the Parisian, indeed. Look at me. If it can be fetched, it cannot help me. I do not want anything that can be charmed and glamoured into submission. My companions are not like your women. I am not like you. I am not yours to mould, child. It's the other way around.'
A light grey line shimmered along the murk of the sea, but Godric did not look, focused as he was on his growingly sullen child, scrunched up against his rock and robbing him of his precious moments alone.
'What would I do with the kindly help of one who doesn't know me? What do you know of me, child, of what I need? More company would ease your mind, but it would not ease mine, because I do not need it!' he let out in one breath. 'What's the use of more company when yours is enough to drown out my thoughts? Should that be all, should I merely need to lie with someone... Are you not here? Wouldn't it have been easier to seek you out?'
He had sought him out, once. Tired and dazed, and only half-jokingly... and his Eric, who only turned his eye to men when there was absolutely no other choice—and even then he had never turned to Godric—had all but jolted away at the first opportunity. That was, at least, the way his reticence felt to Godric, unaccustomed as he was to rejection. It had been so long ago. His pride had stung enough that he still remembered it. He wondered if Eric did, too, and that was the reason he suddenly looked so grim.
'Would you have fixed it for me, my child?' He ran a finger along Eric's neck, in an impromptu impulse for cruelty. 'I could have torn you apart. I might still. You find me insufferable now, do you? You cannot imagine the life you would lead had I shown you that part of me. Shall I, Eric? Shall I teach you that about me? Will your heartfelt concern last until I am done?'
His finger pulled lightly at the corner of Eric's mouth and waited there, expectantly, for a reaction.
'Would you, my darling child, my bravest of soldiers?' he went on sweetly, his voice little more than a breath upon Eric's skin. 'Would you...? Bleed for me, scream as you never have, scream until you forget how to do it, scream until I teach you how to beg? There wouldn't be much of you left—not your dignity, not your strength, not your swagger or your lust. How would you do without them? I'm a thorough taker, did you know that? I could take you—and only give you back in pieces. Or never at all. Would you—for me? To help me?'
The shakiest breath went past his hand. As he wondered if he was finally being taken seriously, Eric's fangs flicked down, grazing his fingers. He could not pretend he was not genuinely surprised.
'I'm impressed,' he murmured, as a dry swallow rustled under the skin of Eric's throat, 'that you would give yourself over like this. I can see how unwilling you are. You are an abysmal liar. I am touched—and confused. You would offer yourself blindly but you cannot bring yourself to grant me the sole thing I want. My solitude. Are you really that incapable—' he trailed off, leaning back and letting the full force of his exhaustion wash over him. 'Toddle along to your woman, before you char your delicate skin. It seems I have more respect for it than you do.'
His eyes closed, he could not see the expression that twisted Eric's features, one that he could never have pictured in his mind. He could only hear the swift precision of his movements as he stood and walked dignifiedly away from his maker.
'I will endeavour to smile more, if it eases your conscience,' he added while he could hear his child's footsteps, 'though I can't see why it would.'
There were two women in Eric's room, after all. They were both very loud screamers.
And then, at last, there was silence.
It was steeped in darkness, his day—billowing, consuming darkness, melting away the bright morning of his mind.
No sound issued from beyond the door. His hand stopped just short of knocking again and he had to force it forward, willing himself not to succumb to his immense, all-consuming tiredness. He felt unwell. If he returned to his room, he would not emerge for a while.
No movement, no sound, no hint of interest. He started to turn. Even at the best of times, he had little patience for this. It felt unfair that Eric was allowed all sorts of rambunctiousness whenever he wished, but Godric had no right to a single outburst in a moment of weakness.
But he had not seen Eric in days. This was absurd. This had to stop.
'Eric, I can feel you in there,' he called out reasonably, and there was no reaction. 'You are not asleep. Come talk to me.'
Even if he remembered the right words to coax Eric out of his strop, they would have been impossible to say clearly, when even the walk down the hall had felt so weakening. He was so tired. He wanted to sleep through the month, bypass winter completely.
'I'm here to apologise,' he said in the end, hoping that Eric's ego would come to his aid. 'Come talk to me. Please.'
'Will you listen, at least?' he tried resignedly. 'I didn't mean to— I was in a foul mood, Eric, I was talking nonsense. I didn't mean to offend you,' and after a beat, 'I'm sorry I did. I've been—my temper sometimes runs away with me. I know it didn't use to—you might be rubbing off on me,' he added jokingly, with no result. He sighed. 'I'm not very good at it, am I? You're better... '
Was that a rustle inside the room?
'My better in so many ways,' he went on, noting with some surprise that this spontaneous pandering to Eric's vanity did not feel entirely put on. 'You're finding that out now, aren't you? You'll outgrow me soon...'
The unforgiving nostalgia of yore gripped him and made him stammer. He would be alone again, and it would be his own doing.
'What I said... I didn't set out to upset you that night—didn't mean to offend you. Didn't mean to hurt you. I'm really so sorry I did. I don't know what came over me.' As he said it, he noted with a suddenly achy throat that it was true. All at once, he felt so sorry for himself he almost could not finish what he was saying. 'I don't want you to resent me. I care—so much—for you. Don't forsake me, Eric. I haven't forsaken you.'
He had no words left in him, and his child was still silent. The door still had not opened when he reached the stairs.
By the time he looked again, his world would have been taken away. He would be alone.
He was losing track of time, Godric mused, sitting idly by the window that Eric had carefully boarded up for him when he had picked this room. The latest in a long line of boarded up windows—there seemed to be little more in this world than makeshift barriers between it and him. Perhaps there was more foresight than immaturity in Eric's determination to enjoy as much of eternity as he could. It kept him from boring himself into dark moods such as Godric's. He missed feeling that kind of open, jolly enthusiasm.
The monotony of the storm, roaring deafeningly outside, was broken by a quiet knock on his door. It could only be Eric, who still had not come to him since that early morning outside.
Even if he knew things had changed—he had changed them—incontrovertibly, Godric could not help but feel a bit sorry that his child had not strutted in with a loud boast of some sort, but instead walked in quietly, observing him with a gaze that felt uncomfortably piercing.
'The rain kept you in?'
He was not sure Eric expected a reply, so he remained quiet, putting on the half-smile that he had been perfecting.
'Have you fed?' Eric continued.
The smile would have to do. It was a good smile. It almost convinced him that he was in an acceptable mood.
'How long ago?'
'Not long,' he lied.
'May I sit?'
'You don't need permission.'
Arching his brow at that, Eric sat down beside him. Godric rearranged himself into a more welcoming stance as he watched silently. He was not covered in blood, for once. He looked drawn, but neat. It was a rare look on his child.
'Are you enjoying your solitude?'
Godric shrugged apathetically. Enjoyment was not quite the word he would have used to describe the last few days. Freedom to wallow in self-pity might be more appropriate. An odd, dull ache spread under his skin and made him wonder, sometimes, if moving around really required more effort than it once had. He was so tired. If Eric had come to quarrel, he would find Godric a sorely lacking opponent tonight.
'What was that?' he asked, shifting out of his thoughts as he realised Eric was still talking.
'I said I was wondering how you might feel about moving again.'
Taken aback, Godric stared at him. 'Are you running out of ripe young maidens?'
'There was some danger of that when you were feeding properly, but not so much now.'
'Are you unhappy here?'
'No,' Eric said after a beat.
'But you think I am,' Godric elaborated needlessly.
'Aren't you?' Eric asked. There was so much hope in his voice that Godric wished he had the strength to lie.
'Not because of the location,' he ended up saying, and Eric deflated.
'Tell me what to do,' he pleaded in a whisper. 'What the matter is. I can help. I will.'
'You can't,' he countered gently.
'I'm not useless,' Eric said heatedly.
'I know,' Godric sighed, 'but there's no help for me.'
Eric's eyes narrowed. 'You are ill.'
'I never called it that,' Godric conceded with a carefully casual shrug. He had never shared this about himself, and he found he did not care for the disappointment in Eric's face. He felt sufficiently inadequate as it was. 'I'm prone to bouts of melancholy. I always have. They come, knock me about for a bit and then go. This one is taking me longer to fend off, I don't know why. Maybe I'm weaker at my age.'
Eric stared uncomprehendingly at him. 'How so, always? I would have noticed.'
'Usually, you don't,' Godric informed him, and Eric looked completely disbelieving. 'You did now because this one refuses to go away. But it will—in due time. It always does.'
He could not make himself sound as airy as he wanted, but neither could he bring himself to turn away his child after days of silence. He would have to see this conversation to the end.
'I can't be happy all the time, Eric. I wouldn't know what to do with it.'
Godric leaned nonchalantly back against the window frame, thinking of all those times when nostalgia, having followed him into death, had festered inside him so deeply it had made him blind to the euphoria of eternity. There had been stretches when he had felt more unnatural in his loneliness than in his immortality, more wretched in his senseless misery than the unfortunate humans who crossed his path. They, at least, had had a reason to be miserable. He could not tell Eric this. He would not understand it. The past and the abstract echoes within had never had any hold over his child. It was not in his nature.
'You will never know the feeling,' he whispered softly. He had meant it as a compliment, but Eric looked stricken, so he clarified, 'I envy you for it.'
There was something only vaguely resembling their companionable silence of not so very long ago, and then Eric spoke again, quieter than Godric had ever heard him.
'What will you do if it doesn't go away?'
Even in his apathetic state of mind, that was a chilling thought. 'It has to go away.'
'But if it doesn't?'
'You will find it very difficult to live with me,' he replied tentatively. 'And I will understand it if you leave.'
'Do you want me to leave?'
'No,' he cut in sharply.
Eric looked expectantly at him.
'I was alone before you,' Godric blurted out before he could help himself. 'I don't want to be alone again.'
His voice was unnaturally wobbly and he could feel the fear in his tongue, but it was too late to take back his words. Eric was quiet, staring at Godric with his jaw set. His child, his companion, his eternity perpetuated in another's veins. He must be so disappointed. This must be the last thing Eric's humans saw before they died. No wonder they screamed, Godric thought. Eric looked oddly intimidating when he breathed.
The bridge of Eric's nose nudged his forehead gently, nestling against it, and Godric let out a breath of his own, shifting so that they sat temple to temple. It felt comfortable, reassuring—the ache in his bones dimmed just enough that he could register the unexpected warmth.
'Then you shan't be alone,' Eric said, and after that there was not enough room for words between his lips and Godric's skin.
It was just a peck on the cheek, the chastest of gestures, so very unlike Eric. It should not have made him inhale so shakily against Eric's neck. He had not known Eric was familiar with gentleness. If he had, he might have been readier for the awakening of that one joyous memory, that one innocent moment when he still needed to breathe and had forgotten how to do it. It had been so long.
As Eric's face flashed past his eyes to lay a similar touch on his other cheek, he noted his child's lowered lashes and wondered what Eric's most treasured memories were. It was odd, he thought, as the kiss lingered on his cheek and trickled down his neck, that he knew so little about Eric's human life. As he tried to remember why he had not asked, a feathery kiss was pressed to his side and he forgot what he had been trying to recall. There had been brightness and echoing giggles. His own... His back slipped ever so slightly against the wooden panels and into Eric's hands. There had been laughter and blushing, balmy skin of all shades under the golden light.
'You're warm,' he muttered.
'I've just fed,' Eric's voice replied apologetically, blowing the fabric of Godric's shirt into his skin and making it tickle. There had been tickling, good-natured at first, then naughty, and then good-natured again. It had driven away the frost within him. So many voices that had faded, faces that he had forgotten—he missed them all now.
'I like it.'
There had been joy where there now was ice. Eric's fingertips found his skin, and it tingled—and yet, underneath it, all of him screamed that the time had passed. His time had been buried along with the voices and the faces. He was old and alone, an absurd remnant of a world no one wanted to remember in a world that would not welcome him even if it could. Eric felt so wiry and strong on his skin, almost as strong as him, stronger than him, young and blithe enough to chase the doubts away.
I miss you all. I haven't forgotten you. Let me go. It was not fair that he had to remember everything. Alongside the golden, fruit-scented light, there was all the dust, revolving around him and settling under the weight of the blood. As his ribs adapted to the corner of the window, his foot skidded, hitting the bottom lock, and yet it was not the wood and his scraped skin he scented. It was the sweat, filtering down the streets in the humid weather, the dirt closing wounds faster than healers could, the bitterness in his throat. His own blood had always tasted bitter to Godric. Eric's had always been so sweet. It enclosed him, blanketed him from behind Eric's warm skin, his blood in another's body—his blood that was really another's. The stale, dusty blood of his world drying on the earth until none of it remained. No one would know they had been there. Their time had passed. Mine hasn't. I'm still here. Let me go.
He had shouted, then screamed. He had cried. He wondered what Eric, so wiry and strong against his skin, would think if he saw him cry. Godric had never cried, not since he had stopped breathing. Eric kissed him and the sting in his eyes felt imaginary. But the cinders found a way into their lips, and they glided into him, dulling him to Eric's warmth.
When they lost their balance and slipped from the tiny bay window onto the floor, it was not Eric's sheltering arms he felt, but the echo of his own hands softening his fall onto the damp, lumpy earth, the blood therein resurfacing to meet his fingers. He shivered. The sun in his mind reached him through the centuries, but it came drenched in sacrifice. It was not fair that such tiny warmth came from Eric's embrace and he had to relinquish even that. He was too cold to move and yet he had to grapple in the dark for Eric's face, he had to break the kiss. He could not speak otherwise.
'You are half of me.' The words dragged themselves out unwillingly. 'I treasure you above all that I have encountered. You know this.'
Even if he did not usually say it in so many words, the sentiment was not entirely novel to Eric, who nodded warily from behind his freshly dishevelled hair.
'Then you will not be offended if I say this won't help me and may even harm us both. This...' he pleaded when Eric looked no less than wounded. Gesturing to the shape they made on the floor, he went on before the misunderstanding escalated, 'I don't want it enough to risk you. And you don't want it at all. Not at all,' he added gently as Eric shook his head compulsively. 'You cannot lie to me. I've been relishing this devotion for centuries. I will not have it turn into resentment. I will not stand for it. I will not risk it.'
'I will never resent you,' Eric complained.
Godric had little articulation left tonight, not enough to quibble. Summoning his last energies, he grabbed at the fabric of his child's shirt and allowed his fangs to descend as he slithered along Eric's torso, towards his neck. To his credit, Eric did not move an inch. His sharp intake of breath, on the other hand, echoed through every corner of the room. Fear was very difficult to mask in one who rarely felt it.
'I won't have this happen,' Godric said, retracting his fangs and sitting back. 'I can't. But should you consider it, I do have a request... you would be doing me the very greatest kindness. Nothing would match it.'
Eric, too, sat up, looking down in embarrassment. 'What will you have me do?'
The words took their time. 'Sit with me. Let me know you are here as I fight my mind tonight. I have a very long night ahead of me,' he pleaded. He could feel it coming for him already. 'You don't have to look at me. Would you? Could you?'
Eric shifted silently so that Godric could burrow under his arm, and he could not help but be moved. Eric never sought physical contact unless he had ulterior motives. Again, Godric did not know the reasons, but being touched seemed to repulse Eric on a visceral level. And yet, here he was, making room for Godric against his side. As he accepted the tacit invitation, Godric wondered if this was an even bigger sacrifice than what Eric had been doing. But then, between the rustle and the silence, frost coated his bones again and he could not think but of his child's warmth, melting it away.
'I think I'd quite like to move away,' he said later on, his muscles tight in their fight against themselves. 'A change of airs...'
'Where would you like to go?'
'Will you come?'
Eric's chin shifted against his head. 'I won't have anyone else sit with you at night.'
'Then I don't care where we go.' Godric closed his eyes with a sigh.
Later still, something inside him lurched and he wanted to weep, but did not. He was quiet. He dare not move. Eric, who had not shifted from his place, tightened his hold on him and whispered gently, 'It's nearly dawn. You'll be able to sleep.'
'No, I won't.'
'I'll stay with you until you do.'
'I miss dawn, Eric,' he murmured and, mercifully, he was so tired that it came out in his native tongue. Eric only identified the odd pronunciation of his name. 'You'd despise me if you knew.'
'I'm sorry,' Eric replied timidly, in the same hushed tone, 'I couldn't catch that.'
'Dawn...' he gasped. He was in pain. It was not fair. Let me go.
Eric tilted his head for a proper look at him. It was the gentlest touch he ran down Godric's cheek to bring him closer.
'It will pass, Godric. It will all pass.'
'It will. I promise you it will.'
Outside, the storm thundered on, digging into the sand that had burrowed him so often. Here and there, trees moaned under the rain and crackled as the odd lightning bolt singed them. Behind Godric's eyes, the crackling tasted of heat and rust.
'Do you like it?'
'Good. Close your eyes. I will be here until you chase it all away.'
The sun washed over his skin and the scent of olive trees swelled into the pathways. The horses' hooves echoed around them. There was laughter. He did not want to open his eyes.