Francoeur remembered something, he'd realized while holding his head in his hands, something he'd known but had forgotten in the excitement of being close to Lucille again…
That night, after running away, he'd fed on the very next stray cat that crossed his path. In order to be absolutely sure he wasn't tempted by the scent of blood near Lucille; he drained four.
The hot liquid had been welcome after such a long time without, and suddenly he felt aware, his sight was clearer, he felt the very air around him vibrate. His limbs felt warm and strong, like he'd been too numb to realize how cold he felt.
How come he lasted this long without his first natural life source? How come it felt like he could jump so high and so far, like he could lift those stinking metal things, the ones that went 'Hooon-krooonk! And Be-laaargh-baaa!
He felt alive!
Throwing down the carcass of his fifth stray; he gave a happy sound that was part-way chirp and part-way laugh, his legs were trembling with suppressed power, releasing his restraint he began jumping all over the buildings, mindful of the pre-dawn risers and humans milling about.
He felt so good, he felt so driven; he wanted to go back to Lucille and dance! Dance! Dance! With her! What did humans do when they felt so alive? He didn't know, for all he knew, they were like he. Maybe they would jump?
Maybe their food source would give them this strength as well; Lucille might not even have harmed herself! Maybe she was just feeding, and had spilled some on those nightclothes she favored, and after consuming blood, not only would she be fed, maybe she would feel this alive with him!
Leap after leap Francoeur crittered happily, not a worry on his mind, he would return! He would talk to his Lucille, he would dance with her, and he would hold her and spin her in endless circles round the room until the dizziness would make him collapse.
Somewhere in his mind, now capable of sentient thought, a very primal instinct colored the happy thoughts surrounding Lucille, turned them around in a way that was both natural to his species and his gender; Lucille is very young, and very wanted, she hasn't shown an interest in others…and if she has just fed on blood; our most nurturing source, she would be very fertile-
Mid-jump to the next building, Francoeur stopped. And then he tumbled. And hit buildings as he did.
The fall wasn't scary, jumping was never scary, but landing on the wrong side of his foot was. Landing like that hurt.
Hissing, Francoeur eased his leg from under him, it was uninjured, but had taken all the blunt of the fall, and it would be a little tender for the following day.
Carefully placing his foot on the ground in a position that wouldn't hurt it more than it already was, he took to thinking back, and safely on the ground there would be no chance of him leaping headfirst into a building or missing a rooftop and falling down again.
Hugging his knees to his chest, Francoeur thought. Then thought some more, relaying all the information he had been born with, all that he had known and did before his life had been shattered apart by that strange explosion, and his new mind could put the actions into a logical explanation. It was his natural instinct; Francoeur had known it and acted upon said instinct for as long as he had existed. Francoeur thought and thought about it in as many ways as he could, and then stopped thinking because it hurt his chest and head.
It was all a little too much for him; the sudden realization had been long overdue. But it was the right one.
How many times had he sat beside Lucille and reveled in the warmth she both was and called up in him, the many times he had looked at a couple walking past them, their arms intertwine and exchanging loving touches, and the times he wished to know why he wanted to do that with Lucille.
If Lucille was…like him, then…she would be…and then…maybe later…
A very odd sensation crept up his face, touching it with a hand he felt the leathery skin of his cheek burning at the thought of him and Lucille –and here the feeling grew hotter – doing, that. With the hotness, came the joy.
But then he glanced down, a little pool of dirtied water from that night's rainfall had gathered into a small puddle on the cobblestone ground. In it, he saw his reflection.
And then suddenly, something wet was falling out of his eyes, and he didn't know why it hurt his chest, or why he felt so cold, or why it felt like he lost Lucille in a way, just because she wouldn't want to be with him, that way.
Because he wasn't human.
That first night: Francoeur cried.
And as the days passed, he watched Lucille, day in day out, she would leave her home, looking tired, and return looking worse than that morning, and the day after that, even worse.
Once he'd peeked through a crack between the shuttered windows into The Rare Bird, listening to Lucille sing with a feeling of longing so powerful he had bitten right through his lip in effort to stop himself from crying out to her. He had nearly dislocated two of his shoulders by holding himself fast onto the railing, afraid that he would want to break through the glass and not only scare the few dozen humans there, but take Lucille against her will with him.
At the end of her performance, she was approached by that man, Raloo or something, he would leave. He would leave with the knowledge that Lucille didn't feel for him enough to look for him, because she found someone else. It was childish of him too think so, ironically enough he had no understanding of said concept.
But he came back, after a few days, he might be ignorant, he might be curious and new to this world…but he was alone.
And Lucille was…his friend.
And she would always be, never mind that she didn't-
Don't mind, won't mind. Shan't mind.
He didn't want to mind!
And still he did, still he came back, and when he saw her through the balcony windows – which were still open?- on the ninth or eighth night, she was asleep on a chair that was in no way fit for sleeping in, he remembered how much he cared for his friend.
He crept in silently, barely even touching the wide open windows. Towering over her small form Francoeur wondered that maybe, if he gave her time, they could-
He was a friend, she was his friend.
And as friends, he would give her the care she needed. And now she needed to be warm and resting.
Gently picking her up, - she was so small and soft and light! - Francoeur carried her to the bed, that accursed bed, where he'd slept safely with her, played that midnight game of push-and-scoot, the place he'd once were too afraid to lay down on, because of some horrid thunder-storm which made his fear of the water arise to the surface a million fold. The sound of thunder and the flash of lighting were new things to him; it sounded like the sky was falling too pieces and that the world was at its end. She'd held him and sung to him until he had calmed down, pried the sheets from his cramped fingers and held them in her own soft hands.
It felt like a hundred years ago.
Placing the sheets over her, he made to move away, certain that she would be safe. Knowing that in the morning she would wake up and go about her day; she wouldn't miss him. 'I might need her, but she doesn't…' Maybe if he repeated it a thousand times more, if he could keep on fooling himself, maybe he could move away from Paris, wander the country, maybe he would become numb enough to believe his own lie and pretend it was true.
Reaching down to gently ease a lock of gingery brown hair away from her face, Francoeur turned to leave.
Only to stop when a hand caught one of his.
How had he forgotten how warm she was? Trying not to wake her, Francoeur tried to pry her fingers from around his own, but he couldn't, not even with his inhuman strength, he couldn't let go.
Francoeur collapsed down to his knees with a sob, defeated in his struggle to remain in the friends, and not to want more. But what more could Lucille give him? She was his caretaker, that fact alone had been certain the very day she named him, and she would be his friend. The aching in his chest gave three angry thud-thud, thud-thud, thud-thud. He would stay her friend.
No matter how much it killed him.
With this new resolve firmly in mind, Francoeur was startled from his mindscape because Lucille was leaning towards him, pity on her face.
With a frown he leaned back, maybe she had gotten ahead of him and found out his feelings for her; and because she did not feel like that, she pitied the creature that adored her.
Francoeur didn't know that when people communicated, they did it mostly by eye contact. So it was of no surprise he wasn't aware of the fact that his eyes told her; "I needn't your pity, I know my place under you, human. I am not a fool."
Lucille was crying, and Francoeur was panicking.
Panicking because he wanted to explain to her why he left, why he came back, why he felt like he was a thousand miles apart from her, and she was crying.
It tore at the pain already aching in his chest, even if she cared for another, even if she would turn from him with scorn, even if she screamed at him to never set foot near her again, he would always want to be with her and be her friend. He wouldn't ask for more, because he knew she couldn't give it.
"No, no, no Lucille, d-don't.-" 'Don't' what? Don't hate me? Don't think that even though I want to be with you, I can't and won't?' How could he possibly make this any worse than it already was?
"L-Lucille, I want you to know…t-the, um, reason-the reason I left…some things, some things I do-I-I- what I am and that night I-I-smelt…there was bl-bl-blood a-and-and I, panicked, and I didn't mean to-"
Through her tear-streaked lashes Lucille still looked confused and heartbroken, she was clinging to her own doubt, like she didn't understand him, or wouldn't.
"What do you mean?´ "She sobbed miserably, why he couldn't just tell her!
"Wha-what I mean? Mean, I mean to say…to say, Th-that…That night! You were…harmed, I think, and I'm a, a, well, what I want was…Um, needed…food, um, my head it got, all-all, err…What I mean to say is…is…is-"
Subtly wouldn't work, and it was too complicated to explain in greater detail about his species while she sat before him crying, seeing her like that weakened him more than being food-deprived.
Francoeur went against greater and more ancient male instinct by grabbing Lucille's shoulders and chin, making her look him in the face while the words rushed and stumbled:
The crying stopped so abruptly Francoeur felt like he'd suddenly turned deaf; all he could sense was Lucille's body getting shocks from the sobbing, and her face, which besides being red and wet with tears, looking confused. In a smaller voice he continued.
-"B-But then I remembered that when females feed they turn, um, Aahh, turn , turn f-f-fertile and I thought, t-that you had and-and-and…"
Gulping down a surprisingly large something in his throat Francoeur may have swallowed a bit of his sanity by adding, in a softer voice still: "…I would understand that you…would want to be with another…because I'm not, not human…I just wish that I was…b-because I-I…, Lucille, you mean so much-And you've helped me so many times- Stay friends, b-but I w-wanted to tell, but I was a-afraid that y–you…"
He stopped there; the words were stuttering out his mouth like he was being rattled by some earthquake, it sounded ridiculous even to his ears. How can he explain the way he felt about her when he didn't even know the words!
The lack of reaction from Lucille was actually getting on his nerves; which was strange because a few weeks previously he hadn't been aware he had a thing like nerves. But now it actually annoyed him that Lucille wasn't responding, in any way at all.
Opening his eyes – why had he closed them? – Francoeur saw Lucille; mouth agape with shock, eyes wide and unblinking.
She was so still he wasn't sure she was breathing.
Taking a deep breath Francoeur calmed down to give her time to process his explanation, dropping his hands from her he fiddled with a loose thread on his trousers; he still wore the nightclothes Lucille had given him.
The ones with the blue stripes.
Perhaps these were, aside from the white suit with hat and scarf, his favorite articles of clothing. The trousers were made of nice, threadbare cotton and loose around his legs, allowing for him to move around without a hitch. The shirt wasn't too nice; it hindered him that he had to wear it with two of his arms into the sleeves, restricting them.
But that could be easily fixed by rolling them up till over his elbows, or by ripping them off at the shoulder. Which he had been reluctant to do, they were his favorite stripy cloths; he wasn't going to damage them. But they were dirty from being worn for many days, the rain and filth on the streets of Paris had turned it a soggy grey, he could barely make out the strips on his trouser pants; they were so dirtied.
Would Lucille be kind enough to gift him clean ones? He would sleep on that couch she had, if he moved it in front of the mantelpiece it could be nice and warm. He'd have to curl up more, it being so much smaller than the bed…But it wouldn't be any trouble. Just as long as she still wanted to be his friend.
Then again, what did it mean when you thought about one person and one person only? What did it say about you? Would you be seen as a nuance; constantly wanting to be the centre of her attention, simply because feeling her gaze made him feel warmer? Or would it been seen as, affection? Deep, unconditional affection, giving freely because you adored that person to much to care of what you may receive in return?
There was another word. Another word, he'd known he had read it somewhere, perhaps in a book or a piece in the Newspaper.
Closing his eyes Francoeur dwells through the thoughts of Lucille, the heat in his chest growing warmer the longer he feels; somewhere deep there is a word. The word is important to what he feels with Lucille, it's in every creature. It's in the hand of an artist, the touch of a man to a woman's cheek; it flies through songs and laments of humans. There word is close, he knows it, and yet knows nothing of it.
But he's so close, he can almost see it, see it spelled across the Seine in bold golden letters, and feel it rushing through his veins at the thought of Lucille.
Almost. Almost. It lies on the very tip of his tongue-"Francoeur…" At the name, he jumps. THUMP! Goes the ceiling at the impact.
There is a shocked gasp from Lucille, and a pained one from Francoeur.
He landed roughly on the bed; the crash of his weight catapults Lucille a good five foot into the air, only to land with a startled laugh.
Rubbing all four of his hands over his noggin, Francoeur might have cursed the ceiling for existing. Stupid ceiling, crashing down to meet him as he leaped up.
"Oow-owwwowhhooohowwoo" He whimpered weakly, rubbing at the thick leathery skin of his skull, willing the pain away.
"Oh Francoeur!" Lucille crawls the short distance over the bed towards him, gently taking away his hands to expect the injury. A part from a quickly swelling bump; it's nothing too serious.
Lucille managed to giggle her way through a fresh bout of tears: Was this the reason? Was he even being serious?
He thought she was sleeping with other men!
Oh lord he was too good.
Lucille would have never have thought- Well, maybe, perhaps, one day. - But that was not the point.
-On my period! I was on my periodand he thinks I'm either bleeding to death or preparing to shag someone? The nerve!-
With a slightly mad giggle Lucille softly patted the leathery dome; talk about miscommunication!
"Francoeur, I think you have it completely at the wrong end." Francoeur blinks at this, his big eyes wide and confused."What-"- "Do you know…anything about human reproduction, Francoeur?" She has to ask this quickly and carefully, Lucille feels like she is high on adrenaline; if she stops, she'll fall down from pure exhaustion and won't ever have the courage or the anger to say this ever again.
"No."Well that's to the point.
"So why were you, thinking that I was…with another-"-"Don't human's mate after they feed?" Lucille splutters for the right words', having no doubt that her face was the color of a well boiled lobster; this was a conversation she hadn't planned on having until she was forty!
And having 'The Talk' with said children, it could be awkward, it could be very embarrassing; having it with an adult, anthropomorphic flea-man, this was going borderline insane!
"Oh Francoeur…-"She really didn't want to have this conversation now. Not when she was angry and happy and soaring with love that he was back. Not while all she wanted to do was strangle him, hug him, hit him, kiss him-"…Human's don't, do itlike that, when a woman reaches puberty, there is a time each month where they bleed a little because the egg that was released hasn't been fertilized, it's all part of the menstrual cycle, and it tells a young girl she is ready have children-"Why? Why? Why? WHY?-"Of course there is a lot more science and biology to it, but that's the summary of it… Human's don't reproduce by only feeding…"-"But, you do turn more fertile, and you do mate…right?" Lucille tried to keep the frustration from showing on her face. "In short: yes."
There was a twitch on his lips as he looked down, gently taking her hands and rubbing his thumb over her knuckles.
"I…-"-twitch twitch-"Understand…and you were…"-"On my period; yes, it's part of the cycle, we bleed to exclude the unfertilized egg…maybe you smelt it and…"-"…And, when this bleeding stops, is there a phase or moment when…you are able to…to…to…"-"Mate…?...well, yes, of course it doesn't happen all on its own, if. For example, I wanted to have a baby, I would need to, mate, with a man, and if we are, compatible, I'll be with child…" - She stopped short of telling him more, the agonized expression on his face had returned.
"Is there anything more you…wanted to know?" Francoeur shook his head, he didn't say anything as he stood up from the bed, didn't say anything when he walked towards the window, and didn't say goodbye when he stepped onto the ledge, preparing to jump.
Preparing to leave, again.
"STOP!" Francoeur's foot slipped, but he grabbed a hold of the frame before he could fall. Looking over his shoulder, Francoeur found Lucille reaching out to him. Tears were falling again.
"Why?"- She said, her voice was slightly harsh, strained like she had been screaming. Francoeur turned his body towards her, but didn't step away from the window.
"'Why' what?" Uncharacteristically cold, he held his breath to keep from crying out: Because you want me not.
"Why, did you leave me?" Lucille didn't sob, she held strong in the face of her lover, she kept the terror off her face while she willed herself to speak, less she would loss the chance to ask him, why he had left the one person who would care for him, more than herself or life. How could he?
"What did I do?"She stressed the 'I', she had to know. "You told me you left; because you smelt my blood, but why didn't you come back? Tell me…" Lucille was losing her nerve, the tears were blurring her sight, and she blinked excessively to keep him focused.
"Please, tell me…tell me why."
Francoeur opened his mouth to answer, but the fear of knowing he was right; knowing she didn't want to belong with him. It stopped him dead in his tracks before he would even raise his legs to walk.
"Tell me…please, Francoeur…"
He didn't, he didn't, and he didn't want affirmation! He closed his eyes, pretended it wasn't Lucille, pretended this was just a nightmare, pretended he didn't want to lose her because he would surely die from the pain it would cause-
"I left because of the blood, but I stayed away because I thought you .were with another man!" The shout had left both breathless, Lucille gazed at him with unshed tears, terrified that he would leave, scared that he would stay.
Francoeur didn't stop there.
"Every night, every day, every damned minute I knew you would reject me because I am not human, I was just a creature, a pet that could do tricks, every day I saw that man walk you around, like how I used to walk with you, every day I felt like ending my life because seeing you, talking with another man, being touched by another was making me wish I was dead, I nearly went looking for that policeman who wanted me dead, to confront him and dare him to kill me, because seeing you, not being with you is worse than being hunted down, worse than being taken apart bit by bit, because this"-he waved a hand out to her, Lucille flinched back like she was slapped across the face, it didn't matter that they were 10 feet apart; she could feel it.
"This torture won't end. " He opened his eyes; the red blazed.
"The night I smelt your blood was the night I longed for you, longed to taste you, longed to touch you, longed to take you. Take you and run. Shower upon you the touches a man gives when he knows that you are the only one." The red eyes turned blurry, pools of salty water were gathering. "But I am no man and that fact kills me…I want you, Lucille-"The way he said her name, caressed it with his tongue made her shiver like it was a physical touch.
"…And I can't have you…"
Francoeur was crying now, the red had blazed over his eyes and now there was no trace of that gentle, soothing gold she knew and loved. He took a rattling breath, shaking like some cold wind had stolen the very warmth from him.
"…Because I- "He moved, stepped closer to her. "- Am"- His eyes were watching her. "- Not-"He was so close-
For one moment, one last tender second, he was like a strange, otherworldly angel.
A mighty creature untouchable and undefeated and with no fear. And she was all that mattered to him.
He brushed away her tears, traced the corner of her lips, and then turned.
Lucille would look back and remember this. The sight of his back, seeing him walk away, the memory of those red eyes, cold and cruel but loving her.
The sight of his back would scare her more than death.
With a lurch and strength Lucille didn't know she had, she leaped at him and threw her arms around his waist, clinging to him like a lifeline.
The force didn't knock his off balance, but her gesture did. Francoeur gasped, the feeling of her, so close.
It made the hot and cold in his heart mingle, each fighting to be recognized. Leave, leave now or it will hurt more-' A part of him said, a little sane part of him, and it gave him what little strength he had left to raise his hand to tug at Lucille's hold.
"…let me g-go…" Francoeur's voice however, it wavered.
"…just, allow me, to go…" his words didn't act up with his actions, for his hands closed around her forearms, like if it wasn't for her holding him down he would break apart.
"P-please, Lucille…"- Openly crying, Francoeur tore at her arms like doing so tore at his heart; she didn't let go.
"Please…Lucille, let me go… "-"I'm not. Going to." Her voice was muffed in the fabric of his shirt.
They clung like that for what seemed ages; eventually Francoeur lost his inner battle and fell down to his knees, bringing Lucille with him. It was how they were now, Lucille still had her arms wrapped around Francoeur's torso, while he was pleading her to let go. Simultaneously he didn't allow it.
Lucille was tired, but she didn't want him running off. Until she was certain he wasn't going anywhere; she wouldn't ease trying to stop him.
"L-let go…let me...let me go…please…" His voice was just a harsh whisper now, and his hands were gently holding hers, not pulling, not tugging. Just gently holding them, maybe, he didn't need to leave. Maybe he could stay – he was so tired- maybe he didn't need to, to, - what was it again?-
"Francoeur…tell me, why did you assume, "-"That you wouldn't want me around?"-"Oui…"
"…Simple, you're human, I'm not a human, and it seemed obvious you would want to be with another human. " It seemed unreal how he could converse with her, while they were still pleading with each other. – About what, exactly?-
"…I want to ask you something…but you have to promise me you're not leaving. At least not yet, please." Too tired to refuse, Francoeur nodded with a mumbled yes. Allowing her to stand and approach the window, firmly closing them and locking them in place.
When Lucille turned back to face him, he was getting to his feet with the grace of an old man. Taking firm hold of his hand Lucille dragged him back into the bed, setting him on the edge and making him lean his back against the headboard.
Sitting next to him she grasped the fabric of his shirt and reached out to his face with the other.
His face was slightly damp from the tears, and his eyes still glowed that ghastly red.
Gently Lucille wiped the remainder of the tears from his cheeks and eyes, keeping eye contact so she wouldn't lose him.
"So, you think I would want a partner who is human." He nodded his eyes sleepy.
"And why would you think that?" –"Because you'd be 'compatible'." She silently cursed, having her words thrown back like that. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.
"And you felt that, even though you're my friend, you couldn't be with me? You think that I don't want you to be with me, even though I'm human?"
Francoeur sat up a little straighter, the way she said this; as if there was something wrong with her.
"And you believe, just because you're not human, you're not a man?" Before he could affirm her, she slapped him right across the face. Startled Francoeur raised a hand to the mark, gazing at her with confusion in his bloody eyes.
"You're ten times the man in comparison to every bastard in this city, Francoeur, and don't you dare contradict it."
"Wha-?"-"Don't be foolish, you're not human? Be glad that you're not. All humans have ever done is kill, steal and murder, every act more twisted and sick than the last. You're a man, because you are above it all."
She grasped his face in her hands, holding his still while she looked him straight into his blood red eyes; she could see a little gold there, just a smidge, but it was there. Like finding light at the end of a particular dark tunnel, it shone.
"But even so…You…wouldn't…"-"Wouldn't what?"- But Francoeur just shook his head, dropping her hands Lucille tried to understand, tried to hear what he didn't say. Tried to know what he wasn't telling her.
Francoeur himself seemed distracted, with her so close; it was very hard not to think of how he felt about her. Every day, every night, and every minute she had been on his mind. Looking down between them, he found his hand upon hers, an unconscious act of his feelings, not powered by will of thought, but more like his body knew what it wanted, what it needed.
A little lost in thought, Francoeur voiced his meanderings:
"I have been thinking of you for so long…I can't help it, you're the first thing I see in the morning and the last before the night…" Strangely, a small smile curved his lips, Francoeur carried on un-aware. "There is a feeling, every time, without fail, that arises when you are near…"
Francoeur was completely in trance, nothing but the sound of his breathing and that of Lucille – was she listening? Was she still there?- The name soared through his mind and caused a familiar reaction to his thoughts, images of the couples on the street, the rose-red patch on her cheeks, the sweet breathe of her against his mandibles when he would bow down to meet her eye…
"Couldn't name it, but it seems like my heart"- he placed a lone hand to his chest, and pretended to feel it beating through the tough shell, and yet he felt it beat in numerous places in his body, fluttering in the presence of his love."-knows when you are near, and it sings, it sings your name."
His eyes lift briefly to look into hers; they were hazel. Such a strange color, never brown, never green, never gold. Something completely unique, and so very Lucille. As Francoeur keeps looking, the feeling swells and swells and swells!
"What does it mean, the way I feel towards you, when I know you won't return it, and I can't seem to care that you never will?"
Francoeur feels light; there is lightness in his head. It continues to affect him the more he looks at Lucille, but his eyes droop, and land on her mouth. Such a beautiful mouth she has, it was always fascinating to watch her speak, to hear her sing, to watch as the corners turned up and made her face light up and her eyes sparkle.
In his lightheaded-ness, Francoeur leaned forward. Those lips, they had a pretty color too; not exactly pink, nor red, more a very light saffron, with just a hint of pink on the bottom lip. And so full, so soft-looking. Francoeur wondered how they would feel.
Francoeur bowed his head down, closed his eyes and pressed his mouth to hers.