“The stairway beside the next green door on the left – Watch for puddles, since we’re never quite sure what they could be.”
Nick gingerly stepped over the latest in as of yet unidentified puddles and glanced up at the green door he’d been looking for. The building looked deserted, but faint, rhythmic sound emitted from behind the closed door.
“You there - Better not be no copper-“ The figure that lurched out of the darkness had clearly imbibed a bit too much to maintain vigilant guard duty; however, Nick was saved the trouble of explaining by the hurried step of another person clicking up the stairs.
“Janette.” Nick leaned forward to press a kiss to each of her cheeks. The sequins on the shoulders of her dress cut into his fingers lightly. “This was not as easy to find as you implied.”
Janette waved her hand back at the stairs, where definite strains of jazz floated from beyond the now-slightly-ajar door at the foot. “You just follow the life in this city, Nicolas, and it will lead you here.”
The guard, obviously feeling forgotten, cleared his throat. “You both can’t stay out here jawing. It’s supposed to be a secret.”
“I had just slipped out to find a quick bite,” Janette said, offering the guard a small smile. Nick, seeing her gaze drop to the hapless guard’s neck, sighed.
“Nothing open at this hour, lady, jeez-“
“I’m going in,” Nick interrupted, slipping past Janette. “I’m sure I’ll see you soon, and please, try to make sure you find somewhere discreet for dinner.”
… … …
Janette sat at the bar of the currently-closed Raven beside Nick, who was staring unseeing at the bottles of alcohol he never touched, a faraway smile on his face. She traced her finger around the rim of the empty glass that had held the last of her dinner, bored.
“Nicolas, you’ve been eyeing the rum for five minutes.”
Nick started, shooting her a quick smile. “Reminiscing. Do you remember New Orleans? Flynn’s, and all the other speak-easies?”
“The closest I’ve ever felt to home on this continent,” Janette said, warming to the subject. “Finally a city that took its cues from somewhere inspired-“
“As I remember, you liked to complain about the bouillabaisse.”
Not to be deterred, Janette countered, “I may not be eating it, but that mess they called gumbo didn’t resemble a good bouillabaisse in the slightest.
“In any case,” she continued, “We clearly weren’t there for the food. It was the music, Nicolas, and the very atmosphere of it all.” She paused, recalling the smooth rhythms of the music, the laughter, and the secretive, joyous air that accompanied every outing.
“We were on the run from LaCroix,” Nick said wryly.
“And we found perfection. Wrapped in the night, surrounded by music and mortals too drunk to do anything but delight in the dance…” Janette had closed her eyes, swaying to music that only she could hear. “We were finally happy and free.” She smiled, recalling humans stumbling laughing from alleys, the furtive glances diminishing as the effects of the alcohol grew, and who would notice if one or two was missing by morning? And then there was Nick, finally beginning to loosen up and join her in enjoying the night, the city, each other…
“Sentimental tonight, I see.”
Janette snapped back to the present with a blink. “It’s the alcohol.”
“You don’t drink alcohol.”
“No, but I… enjoyed an alcoholic for dinner and trust me, he seemed to have no qualms about doing so.”
Nick quirked an eyebrow at Janette, who attempted not to show her discomfort. “Something’s different, Janette. Nat mentioned that she had stopped by earlier this week, and she was really uncomfortable.”
Janette eyes flashed in protest. “Nicolas, I was not rude to the human-“
“You were, as she put it, ‘almost nice’” Nick interrupted with a grin. “She asked me later if that meant you were hungry.”
“I… do not dislike your friend Natalie as much as some of the others.”
Nick feigned shock, raising one hand to the side of his face and letting his mouth drop open. “You really are being nice! Janette, you’re starting to scare me, you know that?”
Janette scowled. “Stop that. She isn’t as loud or obnoxious as the other. That’s all. Stop grinning like a fool.”
“I knew you would get along great.”
Janette shook her head, lapsing into silence. “Have you ever…” she paused, searching carefully for the right words so as not to give herself away. “Have you ever considered doing it all again?”
Nick gave an ungentlemanly snort. “All of it? I gotta say, I could probably do without most of the wars. Oh, and disco.”
“No, Nicolas,” Janette said, refraining from rolling her eyes, though only just. “Running away from LaCroix, going to somewhere fun and fast, where no one would remember us and we-”
Nick was already shaking his head. “Schanke would remember. Nat would remember. LaCroix would find us again, you know he would. The jazz…” Nick smiled in memory, but went on. “New Orleans was amazing, but those times are over.” Standing, he kissed her lightly on the forehead before grabbing his jacket from the back of his chair.
“They will die, you know they will, and we can outrun LaCroix, time and again…” Frustrated, Janette clenched her fist, unwilling to beg out loud but feeling melancholy and desperate. Come with me, Nicolas, please… The words, at the tip of her tongue, could not be uttered.
“I don’t think that way anymore. I have a life here now, and I can’t just walk away from it. And speaking of, I really need to head in.” Nick winked from the door before he stepped out. “Stay away from alcoholics, Janette. You almost look sad. Just hold on to those good times, huh? We’ll always have New Orleans, won’t we?” With a wistful smile, he was gone.
“We’ll always have New Orleans,” Janette repeated to the empty room, setting down her glass with a heavy sigh. “I tried my best. Farewell, Nicolas.”