I wasn't expecting this. When you're mated to a vampire, things like Christmas seem a little trivial. But here Serge stands, in the living room of our apartment, in front of a fully decorated, must-be-over-seven-feet-tall-and-three-around twinkling tree, grinning from ear to ear. Beneath the tree is a veritable mound of presents of all shapes and sizes, wrapped in bright colored paper, complete with large gold bows on top of each one, all bearing tags with my name.
I cross the room to him, unable to suppress my own grin. "What's all this?"
"It's Christmas." He says it so simply, so dryly, belying to jovial look on his face. "Did you think I would let you miss Christmas?"
I shrug. Christmas is a thing I don't need anymore, I figure. A thing of my human past, not my vampire future.
Serge arches an eyebrow and cocks his head to the side in that way of his. "So now you are a bloodsucker, tradition means nothing?" His eyebrows knit together, and I get the impression he's seriously upset that I haven't reacted the way he wanted me to.
And now I remember what he's told me of his past, his human family, and the vampire ones that followed, all of them connected to some historical event or place, all of them sticklers for rules and traditions. "Of course not." I shake my head. "Tradition is always important."
That eyebrow arches higher though, and he stares down his nose at me for a moment. "Hmm." Is all he says, and I wonder if I've just made a huge mistake.
Serge shrugs. "In any event." He looks back to the tree. "It has been a long time since I have had a Christmas tree. A very long time, indeed," he whispers.
Now I get it. The tree isn't so much for me, but him, yet Serge will never admit such. He's an old vampire--a powerful one--filthy rich; able to buy anything he'd ever want. What need does he have of human nonsense like Christmas trees and presents? Better to hide that desire behind a gesture meant supposedly for me.
He stands there mutely, gazing at the tree, clenching and unclenching his hands, like he's trying to keep himself from reaching out and touching it. I look closer at the tree. Most of these ornaments look very old; some of them must be as old as…Oh. I really, really get it now.
I move toward the tree. There are several stars, which appear to have been fashioned out of twigs. A child's project, perhaps? I imagine a smaller version of Serge winding twine around the wood and beaming with pride at his creation. Near the top of the tree hangs a ceramic horse, its chipped and faded paint telling its age. I reach out and run my finger over a delicate glass "old world" Santa. I hear Serge's sharp intake of breath as my flesh makes contact with the glass. He steps closer and reaches out just a little, almost nervously. "I'll be careful," I assure him.
"Of course you will. I know that." Serge drops his hand with a self-depreciating snort.
"Were these yours, as a child?"
He swallows hard and nods. "Most belonged to my mother, and hers before her."
I point to one of the stars. "And who made these?"
"I did. I was seven." He ducks his head, and I swear if a vampire could blush, Serge would be beet red at the moment.
"They're very nice."
He shrugs. "They are only stars. Nothing more."
"They're a lot more. Aren't they?" I step close to him and lay my hands on his hips. There's an unspoken rule between us--Serge makes the first move, Serge controls our intimacy--and he bristles a little at the fact I've taken such initiative. But he doesn't move away, doesn't push my hands aside. He leans in and teases my lips with his.
"They are only stars." Serge straightens and raises a hand to touch my hair reverently. "From a life that no longer exists."
"I'd like to hear about it." I lean into him, press my forehead to his chin.
The rumble of Serge's chuckle resonates deep in his chest. "You'd be bored out of your mind, I'm afraid."
"Nothing about you is boring, my love." I wrap my arms around his neck and smile sweetly. "Please?"
He glances past me to the tree and heaves a sigh. "I suppose I brought this on myself, didn't I?" The question seems snide but there's a light in his eyes--a glimmer of excitement despite his words. He wants me to ask, he wants to tell me.
I glance at the enormous tree. "Well, you are the one who cut down an ancient redwood and dragged it into our house."
"It's not a redwood," he corrects dryly. "It's a balsam fir. Abies balsamea, to be technical."
I shiver against him. "I love it when you speak Latin."
He laughs in earnest. "You love it when I speak anything." Serge steps back and spins me around toward the blood bar in the corner. "If you intend me to speak of such things, I will need sustenance."
I walk over to the bar, open the chiller and pull out the first bottle my hand finds. I uncork it, and start to pour the thick, scarlet liquid into two glasses. Serge appears behind me--I'm still not used to that speedy movement thing--and wraps his arms around my waist.
"Sie sind der einzige Stern, den ich jetzt benötige, Bryan," he whispers against my ear, then slides from me and goes to the other side of the room. He flounces down on the couch, staring at the Christmas tree.
"That's not Latin," I murmur. German, if I recall my high school studies correctly.
"No." Serge gives no other answer.
I join him on the couch and he reaches for his glass but I pull it back and raise an eyebrow. "What'd you say?"
He surges forward, grabbing both the glasses from me before I can react. In the next moment he straddles me, has my wrists pinned above my head in one of his hands. Serge kisses me thoroughly, curling my toes with the passion of it. He lets my hands go and moves back to his side of the couch.
"I said you are the only star I need now, Bryan."
The wave of emotion that passes between us is something electric. I've always been attracted to Serge; have loved him for a while. But this…I've never felt the vampire bond between us quite so strongly.
Serge reaches for his drink. "Shall I begin?"
I nod, and he does.