Distant dreams and a fog of thoughts drift from your mind as it finds clarity in a lingering touch. Fingertips, silky soft, can be felt brushing across your brow, tucking a lock of hair behind your ear. The soft warmth elicits a small sigh of comfort from your lips. The touch is so delicate, so measured, you can tell how much they must treasure you in just that one, simple gesture. It feels good. You feel safe, protected, valued.
You almost don’t want to open your eyes and instead enjoy this comfortable bliss, but just as you start to lean into the loving touch as it traces your ear, it begins to retreat: perhaps sensing your returning consciousness. Disgruntled, you struggle to open your eyes against the weight of sleep still hanging upon your eyelashes, but somehow you manage, forcing your vision to focus. And there you see him, perched upon the very same table you’d fallen asleep at, illuminated from behind by the rich colours of library lamplight like some beautiful character from a book. He doesn’t look real. When he looks at you like that, eyes rich with adoration, an endlessly warm smile painted upon his lips, he looks even less so.
How can one man look so effortlessly gorgeous? What heroic feat did you accomplish in your past life to accumulate so much good karma and be blessed like this? Perhaps… you’re still dreaming…
Le Comte de Saint-Germain laughs, the soft chuckle chiming in the depths of his throat as he regards you with a twinkle of fond amusement to his gaze. “Falling asleep while reading again are we, ma chérie?”
Before you even know what you’re doing, you clasp at his hand before it fully retreats to his lap, drawing it back to your face. You nuzzle your cheek into his palm, ignoring the bashful heat which accumulates there. Germain had always - for almost as long as you can remember since coming to the mansion - gifted you with fleeting, warm touches like these, but lately… you’ve found yourself wanting more. His heat was always too brief, too delicate. And now, you slowly discover - while using the haze of sleep as an excuse - you’re starting to disregard your embarrassment in favour of making his touch last longer.
He doesn’t seem to mind and you find yourself holding back a breath of a relief when you realise this. You think you see something flash in his eyes, but it’s so short-lived it could’ve just been a flicker of the lamplight, a brief stutter in the young electrics of the 19th century.
“I suppose it’s no wonder it takes me forever to finish any of them.” You grumble, smiling as you laugh at your own expense. With a groan of discontent you heave yourself upright, finally allowing the Count to reclaim his hand as you spare your own to rub at your other (sore) cheek which had been squashed against the table. A book is splayed out before you and you grimace down at it, recalling all its jargon and wordy paragraphs that stretch up to a page long at times. The antiquated French doesn’t help either, the curious novelty of it all soon having worn off. Ugh.
“Maybe you should choose different reading material,” Germain kindly suggests, reading your expression with ease. “Something you’d enjoy more.”
“I could…” You mutter, already feeling your mouth purse in a pout. You feel a flicker of competitive, stubborn spirit reignite your motivation at the thought of giving up altogether however. “But I can’t.”
You hear him laugh again and glance up at him furtively, embarrassed that he’s laughing AT you, but finding you don’t mind it so much as long as you get to hear him laugh at all. He seems to sense that and smiles with nurturing compassion, brushing a thumb across one of your searing cheeks. “Can I ask why you’re so determined?”
You chew on your lip and while debating your answer close the book, taking care to cover its title with both of your arms as you do. (Somehow part of you knows that he’s already well aware of what you’ve been reading though… It’s like you can never hide anything from him.) Your heart makes one loud, deep thud at that realisation. Suddenly you’re looking away altogether, in the complete opposite direction of your unbearably handsome and gracious host.
“No. You can’t.” You mutter petulantly. You regret it instantly, hating to feel any more immature in front of this elegant, knowledgeable man than you already do but… it just slipped out. And with it also drifted away Comte’s touch.
You can’t quite bear to face him yet, even as he speaks again, his voice lower and softer than before: almost as if he doesn’t expect you to hear him. “Keeping secrets from me? That makes me feel rather sad…”
Your heart drops into your gut at his admission. But just as your head whirls around, your mouth already agape as your lips begin to form your own confession, do you find yourself face-to-face with an envelope: Germain has presented you with a letter. The surprise renders you momentarily speechless before you manage to stutter, “W-what-?”
“For you, ma chérie.” He explains. “It arrived for you this morning.”
This morning? But judging from the lack of light from outside, it must already be evening at least. You begin to wonder why it's taken so long to reach you, that Sebastian was never anything but punctual in matters like these, but as you raise your eyes to meet Germain’s something in them gives you pause. Your mind goes blank. Is he… angry? Why? He’s still smiling but his lips are pressed together in a hard line, the warmth not reaching his gaze. What wouldn’t you give to be able to read his thoughts in times like this, the stern gold of his stare cryptic and deep.
With a subtle swallow you take the letter from him and flip it over, eyes scanning for a return address to see if you can guess the sender and-... Ah! Sir André! Recognition flashes in your eyes as you remember the young and talkative gentleman. A small laugh bubbles up in your throat. “Oh this guy! I mean, gentleman. This gentleman. So he did write back after all!”
“You know him well?” Germain presses after a pause. You see his gaze keen slightly as he looks down at the letter in your hands. “I confess I don’t know him that intimately myself, so I was surprised to see you in correspondence with him.”
“Well, during one of the many beautiful balls you’ve been taking me to we’ve ended up as-…” Your words break off and your eyes flutter up in thought, tongue mulling over the right term. “Hmn… I wouldn’t call us friends as such - we don’t know each other that well yet - but he’s fun to talk to. I enjoy his company.”
“...I’m glad you seem to be adapting well to life here, ma chérie.” le Comte states, but there’s a subtle rigidity to the otherwise warm statement that makes you wonder if he means his words at all.
He watches you as you then watch him, questioning him with your eyes but unsure if your instincts are right. He isn’t-... No… no, don’t be silly! There’s no way Germain of all guys would be jealous, right? Maybe you’re just… still tired…Tired and wishful…
No. That’s not true. You feel fully awake right now and suddenly you’re holding his hand again, only your hand is on his lap, clasping his elegant, folded fingers into your palm. It might just be your imagination, but he feels colder now. You dislike that, as if it signifies the chasm of differences between you two - keeping you both apart - and widening with every passing moment.
“-life here with YOU.” You correct, summoning an ounce of courage from somewhere deep inside of you and managing a demure smile along with it. It’s short-lived however and soon - thinking yourself perhaps too bold, too quickly - you fumble to add, “A-and, with everyone else here at the mansion. Of course.”
You feel more than just a little silly abruptly spurting that out, (and cowardly going back on it a breath later), but you decide to trust your gut and believe that it needed to be said. Then the brief shock which appears on Germain’s face, widening his eyes, gives way to a much warmer and wider smile than before and you forget you were ever embarrassed at all.
“I’m happy to hear that.” He responds, brushing a spare hand through your hair: the delicate touch sending tingles right down your spine. “I was worried that perhaps I was leaving you alone too much. Not just at the various social gatherings we attend together, but here, at home too. After all it is my fault you ended up in this time at all. I don’t want you to feel lonely.”
You shake your head, laughing. “Coming here was my choice.” You clarify, challenging him with a little playful grin. “And I don’t regret staying one bit. Besides, it would be silly and selfish of me to feel neglected: your world is so much larger than mine, you have so many friends and acquaintances, people you enjoy being around and talking to. I would never rob you of that.”
Germain’s eyebrows quirk as he reads between the lines of your words, but you quickly avert your eyes when you notice that flash of recognition - scared that he’d see much more. His hand has come to a rest at the back of your head now, that firm touch and the long pause sending your heart racing. (He can’t hear it, can he?)
“I wouldn’t mind.” He admits and when curiosity gets the better of you and you shoot him a questioning look, you find his stare smouldering with a dark heat, the gold of his irises molten. You briefly wonder what it’d feel like to drown in them, to give yourself up to whatever lies in those sweet, feverish depths, without sparing a care for anything else. The thought alone raises your temperature, a sinful flush rising to your face. “You need only say the word and I’d give it all up for you.”
A shocked laugh tumbles from your lips. “You spoil me far too much!” You tease, voice pitched high in flustered panic: but you’re proud you didn’t stutter. Is he serious? If the intense look in his eyes is anything to go by, he most definitely is. You can see yourself reflected in his gaze with such startling clarity: you are the only thing he can see. You love that. You want that to be true so much it almost hurts.
“I fail to see the problem, ma chérie.” He chuckles, not once breaking eye-contact.
A bitter smile twists your lips, “Because I’m your treasured guest?”
His fingers drift, the tips tracing your jawline before gently grasping your chin. Upwards he tilts your face, a soft but firm nudge that yanks your heart up into your throat. You want to say something. Anything. But the words don’t come and your lips are left hung, speechless and slightly parted. You watch as his attention glides down to them. “Is that what you want to be?”
“It’s what you always refer to me as.” You quickly evade. This is one argument you DON’T want to win, but your insecurities have simmered up to the surface and made you hasty - stubborn - in your responses. “I’m not wrong, am I?”
The tension between you two is so palpable you can almost feel its electricity bristle across your skin. “You didn’t answer my question, ma chérie.” The Count smiles, his voice as firm as his hold on your chin; you didn’t notice it before, but somehow even your hand on his lap has become bound inside his. Very suddenly you recall, with startling clarity, that this handsome man before you is a powerful, pureblooded vampire. The power his gaze alone holds over you is as terrifying as it is thrilling.
But you’re not ready for this.
“Didn’t I just tell you to stop spoiling me.” You laugh, attempting to look playfully chiding as you pull both your face and your hand from his grip. (He doesn’t resist, you note, with a pang of disappointment.) Still wearing the mask of a smile you hastily stand up and start collecting your things: tucking the book and envelope under your arm.
Not a moment too soon a familiar voice chimes from the library’s entryway. “Le Comte and M/C!” Napoleon smiles, looking relieved and glad to see you both here. “Good! I made far too many pancakes again and need help getting rid of them all.”
A more sincere giggle comes to you at that, knowing full well that the soldier must’ve just been feeling lonely. You don’t mind though. Sweet foods are good comfort foods.
“I’d like that!” You grin, walking your way towards him already - too anxious about whatever face Germain is pulling to spare him a glance. You’re scared of what meeting his gaze again could result in. “Just let me put these up in my room and I’ll be right down.”