Don't own, Don't sue.

Lead and Gold

"This is why I don't visit more often."

Adrian looked up at the sound of her voice; he was seated on the floor of his new apartment, surrounded by a bomb site of art works and paper. The one he had just thrown haphazardly, almost decapitating her as she walked through the door now lay at her feet.

"Hmm," she mused picking it up and surveying the brightly coloured canvas, "early cubism?" she peered around the frame of the painting in question.

Adrian, whose hair was mussed more than usual and whose clothes looked slept in for more than a few nights didn't answer as he picked up another artwork from the pile around his body, his green eyes looked unhappy, "What are you doing here?"

Sydney carefully laid the piece down on the only bare top of furniture in the entire room, the rest: The recliner, the kitchen top and almost every inch of floor was taken up by artwork of various style, oils, watercolours, some charcoals even. She stepped her way cautiously closer to the surly looking vampire who had just deemed another of his works unacceptable and tossed in none to gently onto the already over laden couch.

"Had a message to pass on, Sonya wants you to be at her place for lunch tomorrow, apparently they've had some luck tracking down a potential Spirit user from LA fifteen years ago."

"How long?"

"How long what?" Sydney quoted.

"How long will this lunch take? I've got somewhere to be tomorrow afternoon."

Ever the human day planner, Sydney understood his reasons, "Right, the art show. It shouldn't take long, I was only told to get excused for the lunch period, there shouldn't be a delay."

Adrian grunted his assent before leaning over and slapping her on the foot, Sydney jumped in response and moved out of his way as he groped for a new artwork to consider. "I assume that's what all this mess is for…" she left her sentence open ended and Adrian picked up on it.

"We have to submit one piece for the show tomorrow night, I was considering just putting myself on display, but didn't feel like that'd be fair to others, who could compete?"

Sydney was reminded uneasily of how she'd often thought of him in terms of classic sculptures and decided wisely not to comment on his joke. "So you decided instead to simply trash your apartment?"

"No." Suddenly he jumped to his feet making Sydney flinch again. "I just can't decide. Help me out here Sage; you're a college professor in a hot blonde's body. Which do you think would be best?"

Sydney did her best to pass her red cheeks off as the result of outrage rather than embarrassment, but failed rather spectacularly and in a desperate change of topic quickly agreed to help him in his quest.

Typically, she set about sorting Adrian's different works into piles, denoted by type, style and likelihood of being chosen. Adrian watched her as she studied a landscape piece done in bright water colours and coughed something under his breath, "Hawii five-OCD."

"What was that?" she asked testily.

"Nothing, Martha Stewart."

"Remember the part where you asked for my help?"


"You're not forgiven." She snagged one large looking canvas that had taken up residence under the TV cabinet and studied it. "Hey I remember this one." She turned the frame so Adrian, who had slumped in the now artwork free recliner could see, he winced. "What I don't remember is it being torn to shreds." She finished.

The 'love' painting, which she had seen first in Clarence's den had indeed seen better days and Sydney had an idea as to why, wether she was willing to bring that up was another matter, after a few moment of deducing if having a deep and meaningful conversation with a vampire was really appropriate she decided to just come straight out with it.

"So Dimitri turning up here was kind of inconvenient, huh?"

Adrian smirked as he leant forward and rested his elbows on his knees; his hair even more messed up then when she arrived, "You could say that."

Sydney bit her lip, "Are you…umm," it seemed kind of stupid to finish that sentence with okay; luckily Adrian saved her the trouble.

"I'm fine Sage." He stood, "Don't fret mother." He walked over to her and took the 'love' painting off her hands, carefully adding it to her pile of oils on 15X15 canvases.

Awkwardness descended upon them and Sydney found herself examining the bright yellow walls, "Cheerful and calming, huh?"

Adrian smirked, "That's what it said on the tin."

He was staring at her again and Sydney tried her best to swallow the tightness in her chest, it took her a few moments to notice that his expression was so dark. "What?" she asked self-consciously.

He continue to stare, after a few minutes of confusion on her part Sydney jumped a little as he suddenly crossed to her, reaching his hand out.

She flinched and stepped away as his fingers touched her neck, old fears about vampires and blood suckers sparking her reaction.

Adrian for his part quickly forced his hand to his side and looked at her apologetically, "Sorry Sage," he said softly, "I didn't mean to scare you."

Sydney lifted her own hand to her collarbone and soon found why he had been staring, two ragged circles of scar tissue usually covered by the cut of her hair, brushed her finger tips and she suppressed a shudder. She looked over his shoulder and for a moment she could see Dawn standing there, ugly and decaying and so very terrifying.

As distracted as she was it took her a moment to notice that Adrian had reached for her once more. This time his fingers instead touched her cheek, brushing her blonde hair out of her eyes and tucking it behind her ear.

Sometime it still surprised her that his touch was warm and even more that it was comforting.

He was staring again and Sydney shifted under his gaze, it reminded her powerfully of a conversation about her eyes and molten gold and the word beautiful being used far too seductively.

Suddenly, he snapped out of it and the moment broke. "That's it!" He exclaimed.

Put off by the abrupt change Sydney wasn't particularly articulate in her reply, "What's it?" she mimicked.

He turned from her and snatched up a stand that lay abandoned on the floor, "I know what to do." He paused as he snapped the legs into place, "Thanks Sage, you can go." He grinned, supremely happy about something.

Caught off guard and thoroughly confused Sydney merely nodded, he seemed to forget her completely then as he went about rounding up art supplies, paints and oils and pens, when she finally closed the door to his apartment and made her way back to Latte she was still wondering at the oddity of Adrian Ivashkov.

"Hey Sydney!" The Alchemist looked up to see Jill cutting across the quad to meet her, Angeline was in tow, the Dhamphir still kitted out in the Amberwood uniform that seemed unfamiliar to her.

"Yeah Jill?" Sydney answered, as the Moroi girl reached her side, "What's wrong?"

"Have you talked to Adrian today?" She asked and seeing the dark circles and slightly exhausted slump to the girls shoulders Sydney had a fair idea of why she wanted to know.

She frowned disapprovingly, "No, not since yesterday afternoon, why? What has he done to you now?"

Jill dismissed this with a wave, as Angeline caught up to them and stepped into their little group, "Nothing I swear, no drinking or anything, but he was up all night and his emotions were all over the place."

"Which explains why you look like death warmed up." Sydney commented dryly.

"I'm not complaining," Jill answered, "He's really happy now, but kinda nervous, so I just wondered if you knew what was going on with him."

Sydney shrugged, "No, like I said I haven't seen him since yesterday, but he'll be at Sonya's for lunch and you'll see him tonight at the college."

"What's tonight?" That was Angeline.

"The art show," Jill brightened, apparently she shared Adrian's love of art but wether it was due to the bond Sydney didn't know. "It's for the end of first semester, all the students had to submit a piece for the show and they get marks based on what the public thinks."

"I thought he didn't get marks?" The Dhampir asked.

"He doesn't," Jill answered, her disappointment for him showing through, "Not until next term but it still matters to him."

"Which I think is why he's roped us all into going tonight." Sydney commented.

"Even me?" Angeline asked.

"It was implied, you go where Jill goes." The Alchemist pretended not to see the spark of curiosity in the younger girls eye, it was doubtful the backwards Dhamphir had ever seen anything like an art exhibition before.

"In any case, Eddie and Micah are meeting us at the dorms tonight and we'll head in, I'll check in with Adrian at lunch for you, see if I can get him to take a nap." She directed the last at Jill who smiled in reply.

As it was, the opportunity never arrived, Adrian never made it to their lunch meeting and Sydney was more then a little irate with him, even though Sonya seemed to take the snub with good grace and Dimitri looked almost relieved.

By the time that evening rolled around, Jill's exhaustion had worsened and Sydney was more then considering giving Adrian a piece of her mind regardless of his big night.

They met Eddie and Micah like planned and everyone ended up piling into Latte to make the trip across town. The good thing about having the human boy present was his infectious attitude, by the time they reached the college, the rest of their group were in good spirits again.

Signs at the entrances directed them to a large concrete building on the west campus, light streaming from the doors, conversations between people from inside echoing in the large place.

They'd all dressed nice for the occasion although that was how Sydney always dressed so it was no chore for her; Angeline was struggling the most and kept fiddling with the hem of her skirt, which she had deemed "unfitting for ass kicking." Which made Sydney roll her eyes and Jill giggle.

Once inside the hall, they made a short stop at the snack table before Jill led them easily through the crowd until she found Adrian's presence and wrapped him in a big hug.

He smiled tiredly, looking as usual, handsome in an expensive silk shirt and tie and returned the embrace, "Hey Jailbait, you guys made it."

"Which is more then I can say for you," Sydney muttered darkly. Was it just her imagination or did he look nervous to see her.

"I've already given my apologies to Sonya, Sage." He answered simply.

"Anyway," Eddie interrupted, it seemed he'd finished his assessment of the exits and relaxed a little as he reached Jill's side, "Let's look around shall we."

Jill nodded, "Where's your piece Adrian?" She asked.

"Save the best for last." he grinned, "Have a look around first."

It didn't take long for Sydney to be left on her own, for some reason her friends seemed to find her deconstruction of the works, by style, period and inspiration to be "sucking the fun" out of it.

And so when Adrian found her critiquing an oil painting of bright red cubes and yellow swirls she was unaccompanied.

"This-"she said as he stepped to her side,"-is just all wrong, how do you end up mixing 3rd century Greeks with classic French? It's insulting."

He smirked at her, "Can't you just look at something and say it's pretty Sage?" he asked. "Or does everything have to be historically correct?"

"I don't see," she peered at him closely, "why things can't be pretty and historically correct."

He laughed at her, making him yawn in tiredness which reminded Sydney that she was supposed to be annoyed at him. "Where were you today?" she asked.

"Busy," he answered, "I had to finish my piece."

"You made a new one? Why?"

"Inspiration, as the scholars say." He mocked her lofty tone.

She rolled her eyes at him, "Anything to get out of doing something actually worth wile." Perhaps she'd been harsh for her words seemed to hurt him for a moment.

Finally he smiled wryly, "You probably know all there is to know about art Sage," he looked her in the eye, "but I bet you couldn't do any to save your life."

He walked away from her then and she was left looking at the brightly coloured works covering all the walls and silently agreeing with him.

"I didn't get the red square thing," Micah said, as he nibbled on the corner of his fifth canapé, "That's all it was, a red square, what's artistic about that?"

Eddie laughed his eye still ahead on Jill, so as not to loose her in the crowd of family members, students and friends, "You sound like Sydney."

"I liked it," Angelina shrugged, she wasn't nibbling her food at all, more like swallowing it whole and impressively not spilling any anywhere. "It was to the point."

"Well of course," Micah answered, "but what was the point again?"

"Hey you guys!" That was Jill from ahead, who had stopped along the end of one of the last displays, she waved them over, her face bright. "I found it."

The two Dhampir's and their human joined the Moroi girl a few moments later and surveyed her discovery.

"Is that who I think it is?" Eddie asked curiously as Micah leaned forward to read the small card on the table next to the large canvas, which was painted into sixteen squares with various shades of brown, amber and gold.

"The Alchemist?" he read out loud, "by Adrian Melrose."

"Yup, I'd say it is." Jill was smiling, but there was also a confused, curious curve to her brow.

"What's an Alchemist?" Micah asked

"A weakling," Angeline answered.

Eddie shot her a glare, "Middle-Ages chemists," he answered, "tried to turn lead into gold, that kind of stuff."

"Hmm," the red head stepped back to take a better look, putting on his best connoisseur face, "I like it, it's really detailed." The others nodded in agreement, "I wonder what Sydney would think?" he asked.

"Don't know," Eddie shook his head, "but I ain't mediating."

The night was winding down, Sydney realised and she was yet to find her group once more, as she perused the last of the artworks she found herself struggling with Adrian's concept of simply looking at what she was seeing. As she passed an odd looking sculpture that reminded her of the ones in Saint Petersburg square, she almost missed the painting next to it.

For a moment she stopped in confusion, there was something distinctly familiar about the subject of this work. Divided into sixteen squares, each box contained the same image. An eye.

Actually, they weren't the same, she realised as she looked closer, each eye was different but the same, the colours in each varied in the smallest of ways, the shape and the lighting all of it showed a different emotion in each square.

She reached the last and blinked in surprise as she looked at the small title card next to the piece.

The Alchemist

"Like it?" A soft voice asked from behind her. Sydney almost jumped a foot in the air, her old fears about vampires appearing from nothing flooding her mind as she realised that Adrian stood barely a breath from her, watching her closely with those powerful emerald eyes.

Once she got her heart rate under control she struggled for an answer, which was a surprise in itself, it wasn't easy to make Sydney Sage speechless. "Uhh…"

Adrian smiled, "I'll take that as a no," he looked away from her.

"You," she stuttered, "painted this last night?"

He looked back and nodded, "Yep," he answered.

Huh. So apparently she wasn't the only one reminded of their post-Strigoi conversation.


He studied her face for a moment before bursting out with laugher; Sydney blushed as the last of the patrons around them looked around in surprise.

"Really," Adrian asked as he settled, "because all I could think last night was how it wasn't." he put stress on the last word, "how no matter how I tried I couldn't capture it all." He gestured to the painting unhappily. There was something in his expression.

Her eyes followed his back to the canvas, he tapped the third square along the third row, "The moment you nearly died," he tapped the fourth in the second row. "The moment you realised I was screwing up the interviews, you were disappointed!" the word seemed to come as a shock to him. "In me." He said for unneeded clarification.

He turned back to her and tapped the second square, his voice was softer, "When I agreed to the auditing, you were so…proud." The last was softest of all.

Sydney swallowed. Her jaw seemed to be stuck solid. Was this one of his Spirit induced rambling she wondered?

Once again another one of their conversations descended into awkwardness. The silence seemed to physically pain him, he was looking at her with those eyes so full of…everything and she couldn't form thought or words.

"Well, I think it's magnificent." Both human and Moroi looked up in surprise at the new yet familiar voice.

Sonya Karp was striding towards them, her auburn hair tied into a messy bun on her head, a pale blue flashy dress clung to her body and most intriguing of all was her companion. Dimitri Belikov walked not a few steps behind her.

The Moroi Spirit user stopped just before the painting and clasped her hands happily, "The eyes are the window to the soul as they say, or Spirit more accurately."

Sydney as usual decided to focus on practical matters and ignore the questions between her and Adrian, "What are you doing here?" she asked.

Dimitri answered, "It was her idea."

Sonya elaborated, "Well I had to see what was worth missing my lunch to work on," She looked at Adrian kindly, it was honesty in her statement not a barb, "now I see." She nodded at him, "Well done young man."

Sydney looked at Dimitri with a raised eyebrow and he shrugged, of course wherever Sonya went, he would to, if only to protect her. They come first.

"Thanks," Adrian said earnestly, rubbing the back of his neck he shot Sydney a look, who quickly avoided his gaze and continued, "We should probably find the others, you guys will miss curfew soon."

Sydney nodded in agreement and as much as she hated to suggest knowing how uncomfortable the car ride would be, "Do you want me to drop you home?" she asked quietly.

Adrian smiled at her but it didn't reach his eyes, "What? And deny the fine county bus drivers my presence, I don't think so Sage. I'll see you around. Say goodbye to jailbait for me."

He thanked Sonya and nodded stiffly at Dimitri and didn't spare her a second glance as he made his exit.

She watched him go, pondering his early words about pretty things before Sonya spoke, "If you could see you aura, dear." She said wistfully.

Sydney didn't think she wanted to know.