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Render Unto Caesar

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Render Unto Caesar by LastScorpion

Disclaimer: "Forever Knight" and all its characters were invented by James Parriott (yay!) and are probably now owned by Sony and/or Columbia/TriStar. This is only for fun, not profit. Celli's taxfic challenge has been going on for three years now, and it's a lot of fun. A million thanks to her!

"Merde," Janette swore quietly as the pencil point broke yet again. Her pretty gold-and-steel penknife was already striped with graphite from sharpening and re-sharpening the contrary thing. Carefully, superstitiously keeping from making the little wooden object too pointed, she sharpened the pencil once more, dropping the delicate curly shavings into the antique carved-stone lamp she kept on her desk as an ashtray.

Her office door opened. "Go, please. This room is not open to the..." she began automatically, half-turning in her chair. Then her face lit up. "Nicolah!" she exclaimed. "What are you doing here? I thought you had to work tonight!"

"I did. Shift's over, and I came around to see how you are. Miklos said you'd been in here all night."

"Merde!" Janette repeated, gracefully twisting to view the ormolu clock on her mantelpiece. "Is it that late already?"

Nick grinned at her and flopped into an armchair. He looked tired. "It is. What's had you so preoccupied?"

"I am doing the taxes," she confided, with a self-mocking little shake of her raven curls. "Aristotle tries to persuade me to convert to the accrual method of accounting, but I think the cash method is complicated enough. Also, it took him forever to come up with suitable identification numbers for the new weekend bartender - she was Romanian, before the war - and so her withholding is all to do again, with penalties! He should be ashamed. I think I may not pay him for them."

Nick's incredulous laugh was warm in her ears. "You do all that yourself? Why don't you have an accountant do it for you? Mine is very good, or Aristotle could undoubtedly recommend someone..."

"It is my business, Nicolah," Janette interrupted. "I will handle my own money for myself." She could see that he was rebuked by her coolness, and that he didn't really understand, even after all this time. She forced herself to smile indulgently and unbent a little to explain. "You know that, for so many years, I had nothing."

"LaCroix owned us, and all that we had," Nick agreed darkly.

She tsked at him. "No, that is not what I meant. When you were a man, you were a petty aristocrat, a landowner no? You had a Man of Business to manage your filthy money for you, and thought nothing of it except not to dirty your hands." Nick looked about to indignantly interrupt, but she stopped him with a look. "It was different for me, cherie, as you know. When I was a woman, women owned nothing, not even their selves. I labored all night on my back for men's pleasure, and for my master's profits. I do not even know what they paid for me, and I never will. But every business I have had since then, every line of work, I handle the money myself. You understand?"

Nick looked suitably chastened, though his eyes were still warm, smiling at her. She dimpled at him, soothed as always by his boyish charm, stood up and closed the folder decisively. "I will finish it tomorrow. And are you staying the day?"

"May I?"

"Mais oui," she replied coquettishly, and fell into his arms.