A/N: First- I don't own ANY of White Wolf's original characters that appear in this story (LaCroix, Nines, Beckett, etc...). Also, I will put a fair warning that this story has an AU explanation of Sebastian LaCroix's background. I will also warn there is (probably) a ludicrous amount of French history in the 2nd and 3rd chapters. I love European History, so it was fun for me to write and read but may be boring to others. If History is not your thing, I would skim or jump to chapter 4. You may miss LaCroix's embrace, but it is minor compared to the intended destination of this story and will be brought up in future chapters.
Additionally! This story does not strictly follow the events of the game. In fact, those events will not be touched on for a LONG time. I will, eventually, get around to writing my own POV of the game using my OCs, but this is the story of getting my OCs and version of LaCroix to where the game picks up. If you are more interested in game-based stories, then I encourage you to check out other wonderfully written stories here and interpret Childe of Passion more as my AU prequel (long, long prequel) for the game.
PSA for Romantics! I love a good LaCroix X OC story. However, I will warn pure romance-seekers that this story probably won't have romance between LaCroix and anyone for a LOOOOOONG time (maybe ever *eyebrow waggle*). There WILL be romance and other relationship material, but not necessarily by pairing my OC with LaCroix. I hope, though, if you want to see that kind of thing that you pass me a PM or post a review about what you would really like to see. My literary history isn't strong in the romance department, so any and all suggestions will be highly valued and I will do my best to incorporate what I believe to strong plot material. Just because I have an idea in my head does not mean it cannot be swayed!
Lastly- Some chapters alternate between "present" (2004, as I believe that is the year of the game) and past events. Most chapters will be heavily past tense, but any "present" event material will be demarcated with appropriate text modifications. With further adieu, enjoy and review!
She pushed her way out of Studio 904 and into a balmy summer evening, making her way up First Avenue South toward the Pioneer Square District. The news had blathered about an uncomfortable daily high of the upper eighties, but she didn't mind as a temperate sixty-seventy-something hung in the air and clung to her skin. While the day had started out sunny, the rain had swept in and as the air cooled, turned to subtle fog in its attempt to evaporate.
She hummed to herself as she passed Occidental Park, hands in her pockets drumming to the sounds of deconstructing Art stalls. The first Thursday of the month usually ended this way…local, culturally-inclined disciples holding their incense-scented, cláirseach-resounding Masses for all the world to see. A pity she rarely attended. Then again, Art was not a genre within her resume of skilled dispositions. Though, tonight, she paused against a tree as various families and couples meandered past her and into the thickening darkness of First Avenue. Most of the stalls were gone and pockets of two or three stayed up only because the vendors were speaking amongst themselves, clapping each other's shoulders and throwing their heads back in laughter.
One of the standing stalls caught her attention enough for her to push away from the tree and draw nearer to investigate its wares. Her approach startled the women packing up. She was middle-aged with greying-blonde hair clinging to her cheeks and neck. Drumming her fingers in her pockets still, her head tilted as her eyes scanned the variety of handmade silver jewelry. She saw the woman's mouth moving, finger pointing to a few pieces inlaid with turquoise. While she could understand and appreciate the hard sell, she wasn't going to pay for the woman's mistake in pressing the silver, then trying to cover it up with smashed-in, unrefined pieces of turquoise. In a quick gesture from pocket to display, she rested her finger on a simple band with a twisting, interlacing design.
"I want this one," her voice, direct but soft, cut the air between them.
"O-Oh. But that one is-"
She plucked up the bracelet and turned it this way, that way in the light of a lamp on the display table. "Twice as much, I know. I can read."
"But wouldn't you rather-"
"No, I'd rather not." She held the bracelet out to the woman. "I know what I want and I want this one. The design is simple, clean and well-made. Perhaps the best made of the lot. You put more effort into this one, so I want this one."
The vendor sucked in a breath but whether it was from the small insult or directiveness of her customer was to be left a mystery. Taking the bracelet, the woman turned to bag it up and grab a small three-ring binder labeled "Sales". She waved her hand at the box the vendor chose.
"I'll just wear it. Saves us both." She shrugged as the woman's face contorted with suspicion.
How she hated that look, but the stony nature of her façade displayed little more than indifference. She knew the vague ideas bumping the woman's brain: Does she even have the money? If so, where'd she get it? If not, is she doing this for laughs or poorly attempting a theft? Another quick movement slid an antique silver cigarette case from her back pocket. Clicking it open, she pulled two hundred dollar bills from a slim wad on the right.
The woman's eyes went wide as the bills were held out to her with one hand while the other plucked the purchase from its creator. With a snap and a slide, the cigarette case was replaced and her hand free to fasten the claspless trinket onto her wrist. She looked back at the woman's face, bemused as her middle-aged eyes darted from cash to customer. Her head cocked to one side, as if begging the woman to inquire. That never happened. The woman stiffened and swooped up a leather pouch from beneath the table.
"So I owe you-"
"You don't owe me anything." Another stiffened pause. "Consider the extra fifty a tip."
"Oh…uh, no, I couldn't do that." The woman was blushing, which was lost on her. "Really, I appreciate it but that isn't worth a fifty dollar tip."
"I agree." The blush drained. Sobering punch to the pride. "But I was feeling charitable since I held you up from closing up shop for the night."
She turned from the woman, facing First Avenue once more.
"Wait! Take this then!" Before she could get too far the woman had grasped her wrist and plunked a silver ring into her palm.
Confused, she looked down at the thing in her hand. It wasn't badly made, but not great either. It looked too big for her ring finger, otherwise occupied anyway. She rolled it in her palm and looked at the woman, who just stood there.
"Um…why?" her tone was as if the woman as plopped a clod of dirt there.
"I can't take a fifty dollar tip, I…I just can't. I don't need charity." The woman summoned something as she squared her body up. "So, you can take the ring instead."
She scanned the ring in her palm and looked back at the woman. Eyebrow raised, questioning Is this a joke? "This isn't worth fifty dollars."
"I know. It's worth thirty-five," the woman asserted with a smirk.
She smirked in return and slid the ring on. "I see. A fifty dollar tip is too big but fifteen is just fine?"
The ring hand slid its thumb into her front pocket and drummed the fingers, new ring sliding ever so-so, against her jeans.
"Something like that," the proprietor justified with no justification but her own pride. The woman nodded a goodbye and turned back to deconstructing her stall.
Chuckling at the attempt at shrewd business, she continued her journey down First Avenue. Her pocket vibrated about ten steps down the street. She slid her cell out of her pocket and stared down at the screen blinking "Steinbeck" in and out of rhythm with the vibration. Her thumb slid beneath the received and flicked it open as she continued walking.
"I got my hair done," she started without letting the caller speak.
"Went through with it, huh?" His voice was cool. Degrees cooler than the air around her but that was his way.
"I figured if I didn't like it, I could always dye it back. Or wait until it grows out."
She referred to the newly hued strand of silver in the front of her face. A purely hedonistic expenditure. Curiosity more than statement. "I bought jewelry too." To go with the hair? No. Well…perhaps. Sibling purchases born from a singular, spontaneous desire.
"And that is significant because?"
"It's silver…It's handmade and I bought it at an Art exhibit." Her nose crinkled as his chuckle echoed in her ear.
"Look at you, supporting the local industry little people," he patronized. "Is it pretty?"
"It's not hideous, if that's what you meant."
He laughed, "You didn't tell the salesperson that, did you?"
She glanced down the street. A gaggle of familiar faces widened their stares and Red Sea parted as she passed and turned onto Yesler Way. "I used more words," she answered in an emotionless, painfully truthful way.
"Surprise, surprise," replied a dry chortle.
"Is there something I can help you with?"
She could count on one hand the number of times 'Steinbeck' called her since the seventies. It was always the same tit-for-tat kind of request, double entendre not included. Though he loathed reaching out for any kind of assistance, aid from her was especially nauseating for him and reserved for only the more dire of circumstances.
"Not right now."
"Then you're calling because…?"
"Triggered by nostalgia tonight. Let's say that."
"Hmph…intriguing," she lied.
There was very little between them to be nostalgic about. In fact, she could conjure a hundred better words to describe the memories surrounding the two of them. Aggressive. Venomous. Pompous. Just to name a few. But not nostalgic. The word was too sweet tasting behind her teeth, too romantic by design.
She stopped and stared at the Smith Tower, just across the street, while finishing this spontaneous conversation.
"You going to let me see it?"
"Your hair. I'm imagining some skunk-like tail on the front of your face."
She smirked and laughed a bit, "Oh, Little Boy Blue…Your sheep're in the meadow to look after."
"Is that a no? Or a nursery rhyme way of saying you'll blow my horn if I do come?" He must have been alone to say something that bold.
Her smirk turned a little darker, a little toothier, her eyes a little more narrow. "You can go blow your own horn, Little Boy Blue."
She listened to him laugh and found their crude exchange refreshing for the night ahead. She looked down Yesler Way and grimaced with a sharp, "I've gotta go. I have investments to check up on."
"Catch ya later then," he parted with a lie of his own.
As if they would catch one another 'later'. He would be catching gunpowder plots from the depths of his brain while she would be catching the serpents in her garden with a club in one hand and sword in the other. The click of his line dying was relieving. Speaking to him dragged up muscle memories of scorched earth, murky seawater and knives slicing off pieces of flesh.
Her fingers snapped the phone closed and replaced it to the pocket from whence it came. Smith Tower loomed behind her as she made her way further down the street and down 4th Avenue South to poke her head into Caffé Vita, her newest acquisition.
Tonight was a night of check-ins before meetings, meetings and more meetings. She appreciated nights like this because they started off in a dressed-down, unassuming manner that always caught someone off guard. In her everything Old Navy look, from jeans to her black tank-top, she appeared little more than a strolling student from the nearby University campus. To the trained eye, she was owner, director and more.
She merely sidled into an unoccupied outside seat and waited. She edged the menu more toward center with a constant tapping of her nail as the smells of pizza, coffee and smoke filled her senses. A presence beside her garnered her attention for a moment as they slid a small folder before her then departed to attend a waiting table. And as easily as she appeared, so she disappeared with the folder beneath her arm. She gazed back at Smith Tower then hailed a cab for downtown.
She closed her eyes for a moment as the cab, driver weary of his cargo, pulled onto I-5 Northbound for the Central Business district of the city.
She had dozens of holdings littered throughout her vast domain, but most of them were centered in that particular area. The Stimson-Green Mansion off of Seneca Street, the Lindeman Pavillion on Terry Avenue, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation station at Minor and of course, the tactfully named Kindred Hospital Seattle down the street from Lindeman. And those were just a few…the hospital being the most important for multiple reasons.
She mostly invested in buildings when she wasn't investing in specific businesses or stock. Nostaglia had her investing in the historic and meaningful, hence the preservation trust. She considered it her duty to be philanthropic to a history she had seen grow over so many years. While she hadn't been here at its birth, she had certainly been here during Seattle's boom and every year since. Gold rushers, jazz music and Mt. St. Helen's ash rumbled in her veins as easily as the tires of this cab and if she could preserve one building from any of those eras, she would. If she could turn a major profit from tourism at the same time, that was even better.
The only begrudging part of these investments was the folders she returned with. Every stop meant a contact. Every contact had a folder. Each folder was a specific color No folder, no good. Wrong color, wrong night to be you. And that didn't mean for her. Though there were fewer and far between nights when she returned to the Smith with ruddy paste beneath her nails.
The good thing about litters of investments was that it expanded her domain beyond a singular building and title. Everything south of Richmond Heights and north of Riverton-Boulevard Park on this little isthmus was essentially hers. Essentially. Investments made essentially metamorphose into concretely….indisputably. She wasn't greedy, though, nor voracious for domain. She just liked to make a point that this was her city. Her compatriots were more than welcome to claim all the dance studios, law firms and pubs they wanted so long as she got what she was do.
Philanthropically dropping money on buildings wasn't the only way she expanded her influence in the city. She didn't centralize herself. Most of her investments nestled in the business district, but she did the night-to-night running of politics within the toppish ten floors of the Smith Building in Pioneer Square and spent the days and early evening hours in a sprawling, palatial residence in the Queen Anne borough.
Never mix politics and pleasure. The Russian accent lilted through her memory as she thought about the difference between her interactions between Smith and West Galer Street. Her fingers drummed the rainbow pile of folders in her lap as her phone buzzed in her pocket. She slid it out and furrowed her brow. A reluctant finger lifted the receiver to answer the call from the Smith.
Patrice Whaler, low totem pole secretary and loyal lapdog, chirped in her ear about her appointments, beginning to line up, and a slew of meetings with Mr. So-and-So or Ms. What's-Her-Face. Their names blended together in a smoothie of "she could care less".
"I'm five minutes away. I want the Michael Kors crepe dress, black. Jimmy Choos. I expect appropriate accessories. And I want a glass of my favorite…warm," she hung up. At this point in their relationship, she didn't have to tell her how or from whom she would get these things. She trusted they would be ready for her when she got there….in ten minutes. She said five and enjoyed walking into the tension those extra five minutes caused. After all, no one would tell her she had said five minutes instead of double that.
She had the cab stop where it had picked her up across from the café. She forked over more than an appropriate amount for the round trip from her cigarette case.
Up Fourth Avenue South she went and turned toward the Smith building. Her sandals clacked against the stone, seemingly attracting attention from friends feeding in the shadowed nooks and alleyways. Silent, respectful regards for her movements from the darkness. Her hand came up to brush away the silver strand from her eyes. It would take some getting used to, but she wasn't at all unhappy about the decision. She looked down at the folders in her hand and counted the colors one more time. Compulsive mannerisms ingrained from long before all this.
She stopped beside a lamp post as she stared at the front entrance of the Smith. Tiny, icy crawlings moved up her back as she watched a business suit speak into a cell phone, his back to her. A palm rested on the roof of his car, charcoal black as the suit he wore. Charcoal was blocking her entrance to her building. More importantly…he wasn't supposed to be there. A quick, mental review of her calendar told her he was supposed to be here...at all! Whatever conversation he was having was less important when compared to where he was at the moment. She shifted from one foot to the other as she considered her alternatives. She could simply walk across the street and move to the back of the building via First Avenue. But that would put her two minutes behind. Twelve minutes was just ridiculous and served no purpose. Ten…ten was nice and even. Waiting here would do the exact same thing.
Though she didn't need to, she exhaled and moved forward. She tucked the folders beneath her opposite arm and ran her fingers through her hair as she glided passed him. Charcoal spoke a foreign tongue, harsh and biting words, into his cell phone before ending his conversation. She had only just walked ahead of him when his body turned to face the building and his hand jutted out to grasp her upper arm.
"Stop." His command sounded similar to an owner training his dog.
It elicited the same reaction. She stopped. Difference was…there was no treat at the end of this obedience.
She glanced at his face, not his hand as if he were any other ignorant person off the street or in her court. The glacial blue of his eyes were disapproving and she couldn't yet figure out if it was about the silver strand of hair, the pedestrian way she was dressed or the undignified manner in which she carried herself in the 2.5 seconds it took for her to pass him by. Though, she had a strong hunch which one it was the harder he stared and the more he sneered.
She frowned. "I'm going to be late."
"Fix it!" He hissed and moved with her to the entrance of the building. "And what are you wearing? I doubt I raised you to display yourself with so little decorum."
She almost snarled. You didn't raise me at all. "I was merely checking on investments," she made a motion with the file folders.
That was a mistake, because he forked his hand out so they could be humbly delivered into his grasp. Goodness, this was exhausting, but she did it since she did not want to be late by her own standards.
They rode the elevator up to the 25th floor, where her spacious office and conference area was located. True to form, shoes and appropriate accessories were set beside her desk (luxurious slippers tucked neatly beneath). She opened a closet door and there hung her dress, perfectly pressed. If Patrice kept up this up, she would undoubtedly be forced to promote the girl to something with more responsibility. However, that would require finding another gopher to get her attire for her and she wasn't sure she had the patience to get them up to snuff.
She didn't even have time to move her hands to the bottom of her shirt before he was tearing it up over her head. She resisted making any sound as he reached for the dress. At least he had the decency to let her remove her own jeans. He ignored the embellished undergarments as she stepped into the crepe dress…A-line and business-like. Zipped in, he studied her from back to front and still had a look of dissatisfaction. She followed his eyes down to her pale legs and she rolled her eyes.
"I'll be sitting behind my desk. No one will notice," she moved to slide her shoes on and replaced the newly-purchased silver with something a little more pricey and couture.
"It's inappropriate. And they will notice when you stand to show them out," he pressed, following her like an unwelcome shadow.
She hung her head and let out an agitated groan before buzzing Patrice and requesting a pair of hose - as if the girl should have had them in here in the first place. He pulled her chair out and she sat down, starting up her computer with a flick of her wrist as he turned his attention to the humble jewelry she had removed.
"What are those?" he picked up the bracelet and studied it in the same manner she had, hours before.
She shrugged and fixed her hair back, "Spontaneous buy." She could have easily answered in a snarky manner, but she had to go home with him and the same hand holding the bracelet was capable of many things.
"From whom? And why?"
"Local artiste, and because I'm a natural born philanthropist," she joked at the end, attention on her email now.
"Not exactly beautiful, is it? If you wanted silver jewelry-"
He was abruptly cut off by Patrice sliding into the office. One hand held her hose and the other, a glass of her favorite…warm. She hadn't realized how she needed it until it was set in front of her. She looked at him, then at Patrice, who merely nodded and went off to fetch a second glass. That's how well he was known to her staff. She took a long drink, not wanting to wait for his to get there. She felt a small bit dribble from the corner of her mouth and a handkerchief swab it away.
"Such a messy eater…" he fussed, affectionately, and sat across from her with the rainbow of folders. "So, how are you?"
She was distracted by an uncomfortably long email. Eyes fixated on the screen rather than the man in the chair before her. She had five minutes until her first meeting. Five minutes, and an email and the man. She heard her name being called and snapped her attention back to pale blue eyes.
"cláirseach"- Pronounced (or sounds to me like) "Clar-shuck" or "clar-shugh" ; this is the Irish word for a Gaelic harp.
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