by Laura W.
The stars were so brilliant. Hundreds, on almost the longest night of the year. Klaus drew in a lungful of brittle air and let it out again through his nose, watching as it condensed in a ghostly whirling cloud that lingered a fraction too long before it dissipated into the night. Cold, and profoundly still. It felt as if the entire city was asleep, though it wasn't yet midnight.
It shouldn't have been so quiet. It wasn't usually. He decided to watch just a little while longer; surely someone would appear on the street, alone and distracted by the desire to get back into the warmth. An easy target. He hadn't much time; Lucard had given him a curfew of midnight. But he could be quick about it, if he had to, and it would take only an instant to teleport back home.
Klaus sank his hands into his overcoat pockets, and leaned against the stone barrier. From his vantage point, he could see both the deserted street of the popular night-café district and the winding cobblestone lanes of the lower suburbs twelve meters below. It would be easy to fly up or down and be at someone's throat in a moment—that is, if there were anyone there. With a sigh, he turned up his collar, and walked southeast, following the curve of the river. Down in the valley of the old suburbs, the water moved with a drowsy, dreamy calm, showing only in green satin glints the reflected light of the moon.
Impatiently, Klaus glanced up at the sky. Ten minutes 'till midnight. But it had been weeks since he'd had any blood; Lucard had been working night and day to make sure that the proposal would be ready in time, and he expected Klaus to help. At least he'd allowed him to sleep a little, but every time he'd begun to dream Lucard had shaken him awake and given him another stack of papers and another long list of things that needed to be finished. On top of that, there hadn't been any dinners together, any talks, any nights out. Klaus had wanted Lucard to come with him tonight, but he'd refused, barely looking up from the business book he was reading. Klaus scowled. He didn't see why he had to be back by midnight when Lucard clearly didn't care if he was there or not. But the other vampire's temper was short enough already, of late, and Klaus had no desire to be punished again. He would be certain to be back at the castle by the specified hour, if only just.
When he found himself looking down at the roof of St. John's church, he stopped. He hadn't realised that he'd walked so far from the café district. No one would be at the cathedral at this time of night, especially not when it wasn't even a Saturday. Annoyed with himself for having paid so little attention, he was about to give up in disgust and go home when a faint sound of music drifted up from the dark sanctuary. …The pipe organ? What on earth?
All at once, he realized. Of course, that was the reason no one was out on the streets. It was Christmas Eve. He hadn't had time to pay attention to the date in the past few days, and, anyway, Lucard didn't care whether or not it was Christmas—although, in retrospect, the rush to prepare the proposal was probably in anticipation of the upcoming holiday. Everything shut down for Christmas—not even Dracula could stop that from happening.
Without thinking what he was doing, Klaus swooped down into the churchyard. He immediately regretted it; he'd forgotten about the rose garden. The bushes were nothing but bare branches and thorns this time of the year, but wild roses had a way of hiding among cultivated ones, and he did not want to come across a patch of those when he had only a few minutes to get home. Still, almost against his will, he drew cautiously closer to the windows of the church and looked inside. Yes, the benches were filled, and it wasn't dark inside at all; everything glowed with the spreading light of a hundred single candles burning as each one touched his flame to the wick of his immediate neighbor. The organ seemed to take a breath, and then the song began again, this time with the voices of the congregation joining the low, sweet notes.
Stille Nacht, heilige NachtSilent night, holy night. It was as if the tones had the power to tighten a band of hot silver around his throat. Klaus didn't want to feel anything in response to that familiar sound of voices; he didn't want to even acknowledge that he remembered being one of those singers, in that very church, holding a hot dripping candle in one hand and shielding its wavering flame with the other, then tilting it down, just so, to offer the golden flickering light to his father. And Gustav's voice… perfectly suited to the simple tune, soft in the dimness and then growing stronger as the sanctuary brightened…
Alles schläft, einsam wacht
nur das traute hoch-heilige Paar.
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht!Damn everything— All at once, Klaus wanted nothing so much as to hear his father singing the words—his distinct voice, as only one standing close enough to feel the heat of his candle-flame could hear it separate from the multitude. He drew in a breath, and it was hot and painful down his throat; it made a hissing sound between his tightly clenched teeth. The singing itself grew radiant as the last remaining candle was lit and the whole room filled with light. Some in the congregation turned to smile into the glow of the candles around and behind, and, for just an instant, Gustav's face was illuminated. He was there! Klaus felt sick. He squeezed his eyes shut, leaning his forehead against the rough white stucco of the church's exterior.
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb' aus deinem göttlichen Mund,The church bell began to ring in jubilant announcement that it was, in fact, now Christmas day, and Klaus shuddered with horror at the realization that he was late. He didn't even have a second to pull himself together; he needed to instantly—
Da uns schlägt die rettende Strund',
Christ, in deiner Geburt.
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht!If he had been human, he wouldn't have been able to hear. If he had been human, the sound wouldn't have brought stinging tears to his eyes. Klaus didn't understand its power, how it could hurt so much. The thought of what Lucard would say if he knew made him cry even harder, though he struggled to regain control.
Alles schläft, einsam wacht
nur das traute hoch-heilige Paar…