Fire, Chapter 7 --PG-13

Fire, Chapter 7 --PG-13

Postby librarian_7 » Thu Jan 22, 2009 11:55 pm

Standard disclaimers apply.

No spoilers here.

This story is rated PG-13 for relatively mild violence and sex.

This story follows the events of “Control.”


A/N: The play described in this chapter does not exist. And it’s totally out of character for theatre of the time. So sue me—it’s artistic license.

Fire

Chapter 7



The applause rose to the rafters of the theatre in a storm of noise as Mary Atherton Shaw stepped forward to the row of lanterns at the front of the proscenium stage, making her bow with a sweep of her short cloak and her plumed hat calculated to draw attention to her slender, shapely legs clad in breeches and hose. Josef could see the dust playing in the air currents around her, stirred by the movement and roar of the audience. She still fascinated him, possibly as much for the effect she had on the crowd as anything else. All around him, the vampire could hear heartbeats speed with excitement whenever she took the stage. She was not just in her element, she was glorying in the moment, incandescent with vitality, as though the adoration of the crowd fed her somehow. And now, as she made her bows, strutting across the boards as confident as any young bravo on the streets of London might be, he smiled with pride of possession. She was his, body and—not blood, not yet, but soon.

She was always a delight to watch, but the play tonight had been troubling. In the festival atmosphere that had prevailed since the restoration of the monarchy six years before in 1660, the taste of the crowd, after the long sober rule of Cromwell and the Puritans, had been for bawdy, rollicking comedy as frothy and light as the whipped egg whites on a syllabub. Now, though, like a child surfeited on sweets, the crowd was beginning to long for meat, for something more savory and fulfilling. And the theatre managers, ever sensitive to the mood of the city, knew before the citizens what they would want.

Josef had seen Maria now in half a dozen roles. In each of them she had been a saucy wench, overcoming all obstacles by wit, and proving her superiority through cleverness and audacity. It was, perhaps, no surprise that he felt such an attraction to her, such an affinity with her, he thought.

Tonight was the first time he had seen her in a drama. It was a new play, a darker piece Josef suspected had been born out of the horrors of the recent siege of plague in the city, which had only abated a few months before. Tonight, he had witnessed the theatre audience shudder at the sight of a pallid spectre stalking the city, stealing life and virtue from all who crossed him, an indiscriminant despoiler. A vampire.

And Maria, his Maria, had played the part of the innocent maiden caught in the path of this evil. Her family destroyed, her true love feared dead, she had boldly donned male garb and sought the monster out to conquer it with her sword, her purity lending her the strength and skill needed to fight him, her native intelligence giving her the courage and shrewdness needed to win.

The piece was astonishing, captivating, and Maria shone in it like some darkly glimmering jewel in firelight. Josef had to marvel at her performance even as he was dismayed by the sight of her as a slayer of monsters. Monsters very like the one who shared her bed.

A little later, he sat patiently in his carriage outside the theatre, ignoring the bustle of the throng. No need for him to wait upon her backstage as the company shed their costumes, and traded the masks of illusion for the disguising cloaks of ordinary men and women going homeward, now that work and play were done. She knew he was there, she would come to him soon, and he would be able at last to revel in her company, as he always did.

She was laughing as she clambered into the carriage, waving aside the offers of assistance from the footman, and somehow investing even such hoydenish behavior with a grace and style of her own. Her eyes were twinkling as she kissed Josef soundly on the cheek. “Oh, la,” she said, bouncing a bit as she settled her voluminous skirts with a careless flounce, the ornate ruffles and lace falling in cascades around them, “what a night! Did you see the crowd? And the royal box—not the king, not tonight, but his brother, Josef, his brother was there. And how he laughed and cheered when I—“ and here she made a lunge, miming her stage swordplay, although the tight bodice of her dress brought her up short. She caught a deep breath, making her breasts quiver in the low neckline of her gown, much to her lover’s appreciation. Then she leaned against him, smiling winningly up at his amused face, and snuggling in under his arm. “Poor Josef, you bear my foolish chatter nobly. I should not try you so with my madcap ways.”

“Indeed,” he replied, smiling, “you are a great burden to me, Maria.” He drew her closer and planted a light kiss on her full lips. “You see how I suffer.”

“Tis abominable, my lord,” she murmured against his mouth. As always, when they were together, his desire for her began to rise, as though they were two halves of a whole, as though she were some missing piece of him.

“Ah,” he said, his hand playing along her bare shoulder, the tips of his fingers tingling with the feel of her delicate skin, as though he could hear through the touch the rushing pulse of her blood in the veins below. His fangs were out, suddenly, and he had to turn his head away, breaking the kiss.

He coughed to cover the reason for his actions, cursing inwardly, although he wasn’t sure whether it was at his cowardice or at his nature. Maria instantly put a hand to his averted cheek, and he found he wanted to rub his face against it like a cat.

“Are you well, Josef?” she asked. “Your skin feels so chill.” Like all Londoners, she feared another outbreak of the plague that had decimated the city the previous year, and every sign of illness, no matter how slight, was a cause for concern.

Josef captured her hand and put it from him gently. “I am well, Maria, very well.” Back in control, he turned and looked at her again. “And I intend to prove it to you. Soon.”

Nonetheless, this was getting frustrating. Well beyond the point of a pleasant torment. He could stand, he thought, not drinking in the sweet substance of her veins, but having to hide from her in this ignominious fashion, as though the very fact of his nature was some shameful flaw—that was swiftly becoming insupportable. He was going to have to talk to her, before instinct took the matter out of his hands. Tonight. He cursed the timing of that wretched play, but knowing the lurking danger Maria had unwittingly portrayed, he knew it could wait no longer. His kind took poorly to even a hint that their reality might be uncovered, and this vampire play…the council would try to quash it. There would undoubtedly be collateral damage, and he feared Maria could easily be a part of that.

Still, first they would return to her lodging, where he could demonstrate his underlying humanity in her arms, and then, then he could speak to her of blood and immortality. There was a small cynical voice that niggled in the back of his brain, wondering if that was only an excuse to make love to her once more before she learned the truth. Before she, quite possibly, flinched away from his monstrosity. And even that small mocking voice turned from considering the consequences of her rejection.

In the late summer heat of early September, Maria’s garret was warm enough to hide the vampire’s coldness. Josef had learned decades before, as he first ventured out to live among humans, how to disguise his lack of a heartbeat. It was surprisingly easy to re-direct a mortal’s attention to the echo of their own pulse. Even a lover resting her head against his chest heard only the roar of her own blood pounding in her ear, and took it for his heart, if he suggested it was the sound she expected to hear. Not that lovers had been so frequent, and there was blessedly no need to dissemble with swallows, or with those taken by force.

Tonight, in the warm darkness, Josef cherished his lover’s body, savoring every part of her, covering her in kisses, enveloping her in his arms, using the strength of his heightened senses to see her in the gloom, to drown her in the power of his eyes. By the end, she wept in her pleasure, buried herself in him, as though if they only strove a little harder, they would transcend their bodies and spiral into some realm beyond.

Later, she lay sleeping in his arms, trusting as a child. Josef knew he was only putting off the inevitable, but he slipped from the bed as gently as he could, pulling on his breeches, and stood at the open window, one arm braced above his head on the window frame, drinking in the myriad scents of the city, borne to him on the strong wind out of the east. It was late, very late, and yet the city seemed to be pulsing with a strange vitality, as though some great beast stirred in its coiled chains, waiting to strike. Josef let the wisps of wind that curled through the window dry the sweat from his chest.

Behind him, Maria stirred. He could almost feel her smile. “Come back to bed, my love, you must be weary from your labours.”

Josef forced a laugh. “Labours indeed, precious one,” he said. “The wind is changing, Maria. Something is coming. I can feel it riding on the wind.” He paused. He had a sense, suddenly, strongly, of trouble. Not here, but elsewhere. The city was always scented with smoke, but tonight it seemed heavier, thicker, like a weight on his consciousness. “And there are—matters—we must discuss. Serious matters.”

“Will that not wait until tomorrow?” she protested sleepily. “Come back to my arms. Rest.”

He turned his head, looking over his raised arm, his hand brushing the hair back from his damp forehead. “This has waited too long already. There is something you need to know about me.”

Josef allowed himself a last look out the window, and took a deep breath, drawing in the night air of the city. Then he cried out, and dropping to his knees, doubled over in agony. “Flames,” he gasped. “The city in flames!” He did not know if it was vision or reality. And there was more—but he could not see. He struck a fist against the floor, unable to strike against the pain in his belly. Tendons and bones ground sickeningly together with the force of it, and he extended the fingers, watching with detachment as everything slid back into place, healed almost instantly..

Maria started up from the bed, all thoughts of sleep forgotten. “Josef, what’s wrong? What’s happening?”

Fighting for mastery over himself, he stretched out a hand to her, saw to his horror that it had gone corpse gray. “Maria—my love—“ he said hoarsely, and raised his head to look at her, the crystalline blue of his eyes shining in the dimness, his fangs white and cruelly glittering.

She leaned forward a little, at first, trying to see what had changed. Something was terribly wrong, terribly different. Then she jumped away, her reflexes moving her without her volition. Her hand over her mouth stifled a scream.

The pain doubled him over again, but this time he let it ride through him, and by force of will staggered to his feet, and lurched toward the bed. He knew he was moving faster than humanly possible, and that it would only serve to terrify her more, but he could not help himself. He had to reach her. Maria was kneeling up, pressing her back against the wall. Her eyes were wide, unable to look away, unable to believe what she was seeing.

“What are you?” she choked out.

Josef could see more clearly now, the edges of his vision sharpened by the burning in his gut. There was a spark in her eyes, a defiance in the face of monstrosity, and in that moment he loved her for her courage even as the heart in his silent chest broke with the proof of her rejection. Then he was beside her, grasping her struggling in his arms, and breathing in her ear. “I’m your lover, Maria. Your demon lover.” At his words, she froze in his embrace, and then a wave of tremors passed over her. Despite himself, he began to lower his mouth to her throat.

The searing pain ripped through him again, caused his arms to tighten around her convulsively. But when the worst had passed, he came more to himself, dropping his forehead to rest against her shoulder for a moment, and when he spoke, his voice was steady. “I must go,” he said, “but there is danger, Maria, danger all around. When it comes, you must make your way to my house. Come to me, and I will protect you.” He gritted his teeth together, the internal battle still raging, the thirst for her blood almost overmastering him. “I am not what you thought, but I am not what you fear, either,” he growled. “I am your lover, Maria, and I will never harm you.”

With that, he released her, and before she could comprehend what he was saying, he was gone, vanished into the smoke that was beginning to fill the sky.
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Re: Fire, Chapter 7 --PG-13

Postby coco » Fri Jun 05, 2009 9:01 pm

What a beautiful chapter Lucky. I adore Josef & Maria. :hearts:
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Re: Fire, Chapter 7 --PG-13

Postby mitzie » Fri Jun 05, 2009 10:08 pm

I really hope Maria still loves Josef and trusts him!! :fingerscrossed: I love this story, off to read more... :yahoo: :clapping: :clapping: :gasp: :stir: :sink: :seesaw: :mob: :chair: :yahoo: :clapping: :clapping: :clapping: :clapping: :thud: :thud: :notworthy: :heart:


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Re: Fire, Chapter 7 --PG-13

Postby allegrita » Sat Aug 18, 2018 3:33 pm

Another gorgeous chapter. How wonderfully ironic that Maria is starring in a play about a vampire! :gasp: Josef is surrounded by danger, and now he has revealed himself to his love in the worst way. Will Maria trust him? Is the Fire of London really beginning? And what is this mysterious pain afflicting Josef?!
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