“Vachon. The Inca.” Nick slammed his fist into the wall behind LaCroix. “Their mutual master was a beautiful woman, appearing out of nowhere. She emerges from the mists like a goddess from ancient legends, giving them a quest to stop the killing everywhere.” He glared at his master. “Strange sentiments coming from you. -“
“-If you wish for a child to do something, tell him the exact opposite.” LaCroix smiled at his favorite, yet most troublesome child. “I learned that from you.”
“You played with their minds.” Nick swallowed something bitter and sour in his throat. “You never let them know whom their true master was. You gave them a ridiculous illusion!”
“Your partner seemed to like it. So did they.” LaCroix shrugged. “It might have been ridiculous, yet it comforted them.” The master vampire studied the younger. “Did the truth comfort you, Nicholas? Or did it turn you against me?” Something twisted LaCroix’s mobile face into something pained. “It seemed best to try a different approach with my younger sons.”
“Your sons. My brothers.” Nick slumped against the wall, feeling the bitterness fill his mouth. “We could have been there for them, LaCroix. We should have been there.”
“Should we?” LaCroix fixed his searing blue eyes upon his child. “All the times I’ve been there for you, cared for you, loving you like I’ve loved no other creature.” He leaned closer to Nick. “Tell me, just how much did you appreciate it?”
The memory lay between them of a flaming stake in Nick’s hand, which he drove deep into LaCroix’s chest.
Nick stiffened. He turned away from the wall and his master, a stricken look upon his face.
“Don’t ask me to go through that again.” The truth in all its painful vulnerability pulsed within LaCroix’s words. He didn’t look at Nicholas. “Of all the torment I’ve endured over the centuries, I couldn’t bear that repeating itself.”
LaCroix smiled, only it was a much stiffer and reluctant arrangment of his lips than his usual cruel grin.
“So you gave Vachon a pretty lie.” Nick twisted his own mouth into a parody of his master’s expression. “A fairy tale.”
“Fairy tales have comforted mortals for centuries. They tell them to their children to soothe and entertain them.” LaCroix glanced over at his son. “Why shouldn’t I use a fairy tale to comfort my own boys?”
“Is it really a comfort, LaCroix?” Nick turned back toward the master vampire, who kept revealing how much more complex he was than he pretended to be. “Maybe Vachon needed you. Maybe both he and the Inca did. Maybe they needed something more dependable than contradictory illusions about fighting and running.”
“The comforting thing about eternity is I can always return to them.” LaCroix lifted his glass of blood. “If Vachon needs me. If he wants me in a way you never did.”
Nicholas turned his back on his master with sudden violence, only to pause.
“I did want you, LaCroix.” His whisper carried back over the bar. “Only I never felt like you wanted me. Not as I was. You kept trying to change me into something I couldn’t be. You never accepted me for who I was.”
With that parting shot, Nick Knight disappeared from the bar with vampiric speed.
LaCroix took a long drink from his glass. The blood tasted bitter, heavy, and thick.
Like too many memories he’d rather forget.