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    **Interlude 9 - Rosy, tender, glittering within the fissure

    Tariq
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    Post  Tariq on Sat Dec 07, 2019 12:44 pm

    With few other options after the distracted Fakhir ended their conversation with assurances they would speak again soon, Fabien would soon slink up the pantry stairs to visit his friend in the attic. His steps were listless. He passed under the rosary nailed to the wall and knocked sheepishly at the sagging door.

    Colombe was glad to see him, glad to have him whole and unharmed in her room. There was, as was so often the case, nothing that need be said between them about his sudden disappearance. Fabien wheedled about her injured arm, which she deflected, until, exasperated, she indicated it was an accident and left it at that.

    He spent the rest of his day in a dark humour, cigarette smoke tangling in his hair while he remained preoccupied with unhappy thoughts.

    When she retired to sleep, he joined her, creeping into her bed like a cat craving attention. She did not protest, nor did she draw away from his hands where they grasped for comfort. Her body radiating heat against his made for a confounding night as the restless boy tossed and turned and dreamt of dark hands and white teeth. He awoke with pebbled skin raised in shivers, the copper taste of blood on his tongue and a dull ache deep in his stomach.

    The sky outside the attic window was black and dotted with the silver pinprick of stars. It cast grey light in slanting shadows about the room. The bed was empty save for his body in the twisted blankets - his friend was gone, no doubt busy with her own work. The fabric obscuring the walls rustled in a suspicious tones at his awakening.

    Eventually, it was clear Colombe would not return and he would have little choice but to make his way downstairs. The warm smell of yeast still clung to the dark kitchen. Rounded loaves of bread squatted like gleaming toads on every available surface, covered with a thin piece of fabric to protect them from dust.

    The house was quiet and cloaked in characteristic shadow. However, the boy would be interested to catch the faint sound of gentle murmuring coming from the next room.

    Should he follow the sound to its source, he would quickly find his way to the sitting room. The large bay window curtains had been partially drawn back to allow silver moonlight in. A single lit lamp cast warm light on the shape of Fakhir sitting languidly on the sofa, her legs tucked beside her.

    Laying at her side with her head on the vampire's lap was a woman Fabien would certainly have remembered meeting. She was pale as ashes, radiantly white in the soft grey light. The tip of Fakhir's finger was pressed to her lips, and the stranger's bright eyes were fixed on the vampire. Fakhir murmured something in a language Fabien could not decipher, her voice liquid and warm, and when the strange woman laughed he could see the dark red stain on her mouth where the blood of the vampire's fingertip had smeared like the juice of a pomegranate.
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    Post  Fabien on Mon Dec 09, 2019 10:41 am

    Fabien half-heartedly shrugged the fabric of his shirt back into place, and began a slow, reluctant descent down familiar stretch of Colombe's softly creaking stairs.

    The boy's hunger dictated his path. He slipped into the kitchen with bleary eyes and churning stomach, and turned to the sink, lean hands grasping a bowl of glimmering clean, fresh water which he eagerly scooped handfuls into his mouth. His eyes closed, and a soft sigh caused his shoulders to tremble. It had been months now, and still the urchin had not grown accustomed to the ready availability of clean water.

    Fakhir's bread were also a temptation he could not neglect. The boy moved with a slinking caution, and carefully lifted a corner of cloth to tear at the bread with his scavengers appetite.

    The boy was still troubled, his youthful features burdened by unhappiness. Any attempts to weigh Fakhir's words down had proved futile. They were persistent, bubbling to the surface of his mind over and over.  When he had tried to banish them completely, memories of his previous life crept in to fill the void. Thoughts of his makeshift family of thieves and runaways nestled around a fireside, flush with excitement. Of bodies pressed between bodies, jostling and buzzing with animated talk. Jehan's elbow sharp in his ribs, his low, sardonic voice and the fire blazing in his dark eyes.

    The boy's throat tightened, and he half-choked, half-sobbed against the back of his hand. When his own company grew too much to bear, he left the kitchen, his chest tight and hands clenched in desperation.

    The sound of low voices emanating from the living room hooked the boy immediately, and he crept closer to investigate their source. The urchin lingered by the door, his grey eyes wide and unblinking as spied first Fakhir's familiar profile, and then the stranger by her side.

    He felt caution prickle at the base of his neck. Something deep in his chest seemed to push him back a step, some old, instinctual sense. The same familiar twinge that tried to steer the eager youth away from his host, and encourage him not to meet his moon-bright eyes.

    But then the barefoot urchin's knuckles were rapping softly on the door, and he was already halfway inside the room. His tangled golden hair fell heavy about his sharp cheekbones, and the dark cloth of his shirt slipped carelessly from his shoulder to display skin which had regained a flush of colour.

    "Uh - may I - " He began desperately.  "-I hope I... do not disturb you, Madame?"

    The boy adjusted his shirt back into place as he loitered apprehensively by the entrance, his feline eyes moved between Fakhir and the pale skinned visitor.
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    Post  Tariq on Sat Dec 21, 2019 6:12 pm

    The women lounging on the sofa did not startle at Fabien's entrance, although the pale stranger turned her head to examine him with dark eyes. She murmured something to Fakhir who laughed, her sharp teeth flashing in her red mouth.

    "Lacrima," she chided. "Be kind." She added something in that language he did not know and the stranger looked at him pityingly.

    "Come, boy," said Fakhir lightly, gesturing with a hand to the unoccupied space across from them. "Sit a while."

    Lacrima reluctantly sat up and put her bare feet to the floor. Her gaze was as dark as her blood-smeared lip. She eyed Fabien with idle interest before turning her eyes back to Fakhir and saying something in a coaxing tone. Her voice was low and rough and whatever she said drew a smile from her companion.

    "We were waiting," Fakhir said, sitting back in her seat. Her bright gaze was like the spark of a lit match. "To speak with your Sayyidi."

    She glanced out the dark window, into the charcoal light and vague night shapes that meant nothing to him. "Who will be - oh, atheeb end tareeh, there he is."

    It was some time after this declaration that the scraping of the front door proved her correct. Tariq entered, cloaked in night-shadow, a gentle weariness in his movements that suggested he had not slept in the day since Fabien had last seen him. He paused at the threshold to the room where his welcoming party had collected. The dim light that fell across his face masked his expression but the white of his eyes could not be darkened. His fingers reached to unfasten the lace of the dark cloak clasped about his shoulders.

    "Fakhir," he said by way of greeting and she tipped her head in laconic response.

    "Lacrima." She lifted her eyebrows. The vampire shrugged the cloak from his shoulders. Unveiled, the thick fabric of the deep-red sash around his waist dripped down his thigh like blood.

    "And Fabien." The word was honey in his mouth, warm and golden. He moved to fold the cloak over the back of the sofa across from the pair. "I see you have had the opportunity to meet properly."
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    Post  Fabien on Sat Jan 04, 2020 5:41 pm

    The sound of the stranger's names drew a look of  recognition from the boy, and interest made luminous the fox grey of his eyes.

    Fabien at once recoiled in embarrassment at the soft sounds of amusement his appearance provoked, and he shied away from the door, stung.

    Even Fakhir's encouragement was not enough to entice him, and the  youth merely hesitated, wan skin still flushed with colour. But when she spoke of her intention to talk with his host,  he was baited, and ventured beyond the threshold.

    The urchin approached slowly, running his fingers through the knotted strands of his golden hair. He slipped into the empty ornate chair, its rich brocade back and stately arms was a striking contrast to the scrawny youth with dishevelled hair and bruised eyes.

    "Oh oui, Madame?" He pried, his grey eyes moving between the pair.

    Then excitement moved electric beneath his skin, and his head snapped whippet-sharp to the doorway.

    "He returns now?" He almost demanded, with razor sharp impatience which melted into bitter disappointment. "But I don't-"

    The muscles of the boys jaw tensed at the sound of movement within the otherwise quiet house. And when his host appeared to him, his spine drew up arrow straight. His heart became a restless thing, beating fiercely enough to strangle the urchin's breath in his throat.

    The urchin stalked the vampire's every movement, devouring the sight of him as though they had been parted for months.

    "Bienvenue à nouveau, Monsieur." He rasped softly, unable to disguise the palpable delight in his voice.

    "Ah, oui, we have met a little." The boy managed to pry his gaze away from his master, and glanced back toward Fakhir and her companion.
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    Post  Tariq on Sun Jan 12, 2020 11:06 am

    Fakhir was the picture of cool poise tucked on the sofa with her companion nestled at her side. Her eyes followed Tariq across the room as he moved to disrobe.

    Ahlan wa sahlan,” she said. “Did you find what you sought?"

    It was not quite a smile that raised the corners of his mouth. "As I always do."

    When Fabien looked to Fakhir, he would see that her eyes were not on the master of the house, but evenly returning his gaze. Her brows knit together as she mulled.

    "Oui," she agreed. "We have spoken. Your boy is curious as a cat.”

    Tariq did not turn to him, but the warmth in his tone was like a beam of sun illuminating whirling motes of ancient dust. "Indéniablement."

    He moved, with his liquid grace, to the side of the boy's chair to lay a hand on his crown. His touch was cool as graveyard stone.

    Fakhir shifted impatiently. "He asked why I did not eat of the bread, habibi." She added something Fabien did not understand and the vampire's tapered fingers paused, curled in his disheveled hair. Something changed in his posture, some loosening of a coil that seemed to make the soft light of the room grow dimmer.

    "It does a disservice," he said softly. "To an old friend to meddle in his household affairs. Have you been harassing the girl, too, in the scant hours I am not here?"

    Lacrima was watching the scene with bright eyes. However, her countenance was dusted with a quizzical interest that suggested she did not quite follow what was being said.

    “You demean me to suggest I care for a moth that will be burnt to ash in your passing.” Fakhir's tone was even, but her eyes flashed a startling gold. “But the boy - if you are meaning to-”

    Whatever it was that Tariq cut her off with did not have the tone of a rebuke, but Lacrima drew back as though stung. She had understood that clearly enough. Fakhir studied him silently, unmoved.

    “Which is to say,” she said carefully. “That it is an unkindness to be kept in the da-.”

    "Fabien," The master of the house cut her off, lifting his hand from his hair. "What did you make of what our friend had to say to you while I was away?"

    His tone was conversational, but it was hard to shake the feeling he was being asked to issue some sort of sentence.
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    Post  Fabien on Mon Jan 13, 2020 11:30 am

    Fabien's feline-sharp eyes softened appreciatively at the comforting press of the vampire's hand. And the boy's muscles had only just began to grow lax, when Fakhir mentioned the bread.

    The boy froze, a flush of colour livening his sharp cheeks. Fearing he had unknowingly committed some offense, he grew suddenly restless in his chair

    The urchin listened to Fakhir with trembling intensity, and the colour drained from until his skin was white as bone. He was a picture of uncomprehending stillness, his attention trapped between the pair, his jaw clenched as he attempted to follow the thread of their talk.

    What knots he sought to unpick caused the boy's stomach to lurch. And when Fakhir spoke of his dark eyed friend, the boy began to rub and worry the pale rings of scar at his wrists.

    The sudden sharpness in his master's voice was enough to entice the boy to twist  abruptly in his seat. He clutched the curled arm of the chair, storm cloud eyes desperate to steal something of the vampires expression.

    Then their voices grew fogged, the room darkened and suddenly stiflingly narrow. Sweat collected at the base of the boys neck, and he drifted into some unhappy reverie.

    At the sound of his name, Fabien startled like a hare and half turned his head, and bestowed his unseeing master with a look of quiet dismay.

    He let loose a shuddering breath, and softly cleared his throat.

    "Oh, well… I don't - I don't know, Monsieur." He began thickly, struggling to contrive a light, airy tone.

    "Madame Fakhir told me -" The boy paused, heart in his throat. "I mean, we spoke together of many things that I … I do not fully understand. But it was ah, very interesting, to talk with her."

    At the mention of this, the boy's expression became further troubled, as if Fakhir's words bled uneasy shadows into his voice. He straightened suddenly, and turned his eyes back to her, full of panicked desperation.

    "And I was- I am glad of her company. Elle était gentille avec moi. It was not anything bad, Monsieur. " He added gently.

    .
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    Post  Tariq on Sun Jan 19, 2020 4:25 pm

    The assembled party listened to Fabien's response in silence - it appeared evenhanded enough, but Fakhir straightened triumphantly as he concluded. Pale storm clouds gathered in Tariq's eyes.

    Très intéressant," Fakhir agreed. She leaned forward, the tight curls of her long hair moving like a shadow behind her.

    "You know what you do to these soft creatures. He would put a blade to his throat if you asked it of him.”

    “As is your right,” she said quickly, before the vampire could respond. “But it is more than unseemly - it is dangerous, my friend. I only ask that he be given some guidance.”

    Was Fabien familiar with his host enough to recognize that deathly stillness, like the yawning of the grave? To glimpse the terrible way that quietude crept over his features like a brittle lacing of frost?

    Fakhir must have recognized it, for she issued quiet direction to Lacrima. Her shoulders went slack with disappointment, but she dutifully stood and slipped out of the room on bare feet, only pausing to cast Fabien a pitying look.

    Tariq's eyes did not follow her. His hand was clasped so tightly on the back of the chair that the boy could hear the wood creak in protest.

    "It appears," he said after a moment's silence. "That I am outnumbered." His teeth flashed white as bone when he spoke. "It is little concern of mine if you wish to fill the boy's head with witless mysticism, so long as it is by his choice."
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    Post  Fabien on Tue Jan 21, 2020 1:56 am

    Fabien stirred uncomfortably in his chair, restless as an alley cat bored if its perch. His attention lingered on Fakhir, until something in her words cause his gaze to falter.

    The boy twisted like an eel,.before glancing sharply over one narrow shoulder to see something of the vampire's expression. His thin fingers moved to his neck to feel over ridge of soft scars that marked his smooth throat. It was difficult to judge the boy's reaction, but his grey eyes seemed both troubled and thoughtful.

    The boy's contemplative stillness was interrupted when the pale skinned stranger rose to leave. The urchin began to fidget nervously after her absence, and sifted his fingers through the tangled curls at the back of his neck.

    He  was not quick to reply, and it was only when silence stretched out around them that he struggled to produce an answer.

    "Well I - oui, I would like to speak more with Madame Fakhir. Je voudrais apprendre." He replied slowly.

    "If you will allow it, Monsieur?"

    The boy's finely shaped eyes and mouth were soft with affection. As though he believed this simple request would be enough to satisfy the vampire.

    'Won't you sit with us?" He pleaded softly.
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    Post  Tariq on Thu Jan 23, 2020 10:15 pm

    The line of the vampire's jaw was set in a hard line, displeasure writ in a slanted script across his features.

    “I think not,” he said in answer to the boy's invitation. He gathered the cloak folded over the back of the sofa and stepped back. His spine was stiff. His eyes glinted like the sheen of silver coins half sunk in black river silt. "I only return briefly - my teeth ache too fiercely to remain in what has evidently become a den of jackals without blood on my tongue."

    Merci, Tariq,” Fakhir said, her tone only very softly chiding. “It will be good to know something of his árchontas. Vous ne le regretterez pas.

    “I very much doubt that,” he said. “Bonne nuit à toi.”

    Without further objection, Tariq turned to ascend the stairs. Veiled in shadow and with shadow-soft tread, it was impossible to track his progress - one moment he was beside the chair and the next he was gone, as though melted into fog.

    Fakhir let out a breath and murmured a quiet oath. "It will be trouble later,” she said cooly. “He is always such trouble, non?”

    She stroked her thumb contemplatively. The full warmth of her amber gaze turned to Fabien.

    “It was good of you to speak true.” She paused to consider. "I will need some time to think. You, think on what you know, and what you wish to know, and I will send Lacrima to fetch you, oui? We will have a chat and you will learn some things now that I may speak freely."
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    Post  Fabien on Sat Jan 25, 2020 11:48 am

    Fabien's skin pebbled beneath his loose fitted clothing, and he swallowed stiffly. His eyes were dark with disappointment, and when his host turned to leave, he dug his fingers deep into the ornate arm of the chair.

    Now they were alone, the urchin wilted as though his spine had been unstrung. His arms hung heavy between his knees, and he released a slow, shuddering sigh.

    "Oui. This I am learning." He agreed in a nervous breath, and cradled his head between his palms. "I do not like it when he is displeased with me. And this time, I do not even understand why. "

    The urchin lifted his sleep hungry eyes back to Fakhir, fingers tangled in the honey gold of his hair.

    "Why does he not want me to know these things? So many times I ask questions, and always it is "know only that this pleases me, Fabien. Do not worry on it, Fabien."

    The youth abandoned his seat, his movements heavy with sullen weariness. His gaze seemed to drift absent mindedly to the place where his host had just stood.

    "Oui, Madame Fakhir. I will… I will think on it. I - I will go to my room now."

    He drifted away from her, moving with the unconscious devotion of a faithful hound trailing its master scent. He paused at the door, and turned back towards her.

    "Merci, Madame." He murmured, hesitating before daring to question her again.

    "Do...do you, do you think he will stay angry long? Always it is better, I have noticed, after he has - you know, taken the blood."

    The youth shrugged his thin shoulders, and grazed his knuckles along the side of the door.
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    Post  Tariq on Sun Jan 26, 2020 6:38 pm

    Fakhir was already engaged deep in thought and the boy's words rippled across her concentration like fingertips dragged through water. She looked up with a faint frown at his crestfallen conclusion.

    "It is not you he does not wish to know." She lazily circled her finger in the air as though to encompass everyone. "He believes himself master of all things, and does not know why he should share what he knows with - well, anyone, who will not do with it as he does."

    She turned her eyes to the crack of the dark window visible between the curtains and considered her words before continuing. Her eyes reflected in the glass like the torches of a gathering mob.

    "And perhaps it is difficult for him to put to words. For an old man who experiences very little that is difficult, that can be a torment, oui?"

    She allowed him to vacate his seat and begin his mournful journey to his room without interruption. When he paused at the door, she tilted her head to examine him.

    "You forget 'long' is a very different experience to you than it is to me, saghirti," she said, not unkindly. "But non, I do not think his anger will last. We will find the way to his good graces again."

    Her white teeth were brilliant against dark lips when she smiled. "And the blood will help, as you say. I shan't fret. I will speak with you soon, boy."

    The vampire was left alone in the dimly lit room, gazing out into the night-soaked street with her head on her hand, her brow creased with silent reflection.

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