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moment of truth

by Elysian Dreams
rated NC-17
Disclaimer:  All characters and situations of the Anitaverse belong to author Laurell K. Hamilton

Moment of Truth

Envisioned - October 24, 2004

Written - September 24, 2005

By Elysian Dreams

Author’s Notes: If you know what kind of ABVH fiction I write, you know how this story will turn out. Otherwise, I won’t spoil the suspense. Takes place sort of before Incubus Dreams, somewhat in limbo…okay, read it, and tell me how to classify when this takes place…

* * *

They had avoided each other for months very successfully. After all, St. Louis was a big place, even if the preternatural world was a rather small circle. Half the time she didn’t think about him any more, or if she did, it wasn’t conscious—she had too much to worry about, too many men in her life, even if none really ever filled that small gap inside her that he had occupied, for a time. The danger with hearts is that once you give it away, you never really get it back whole, and then when you’re super-gluing the shards together, you find there are little chinks missing, from the pieces that were lost. It was so frustrating, to have completed the whole puzzle only to find that the holes, no matter how insignificant in comparison to the whole picture, rendered it imperfect.

But there was a sort of safety in that, too. Each person only held a handful of the pieces, so no one would ever complete the puzzle, no one could ever build it into a perfect whole and then destroy it, scattering the pieces into the dark corners of the room where they could never be found again.

Occasionally she would hear about him through others, though Jason was surprisingly never brought him up. Then again, the werewolf was also something once his and now Jean-Claude’s, and true loyalty was something rare and precious. Sometimes the triumvirate’s power would flare but she studiously ignored it. He’d turned his back on them, on his pack, but most of all, on her.

She missed the indefinable feel of his body, the sheer power of it, and the vague wholesomeness of physicality. It was a small blessing that none of her lovers was like him, or she might have found it harder to bear. As such, she convinced herself to forget.

It was, ironically, at a club that Jean-Claude was interested in buying to further his own entrepreneurial interests. She’d turned around with a glass in her hand—water, no alcohol—and her eyes had glided down the smooth curve of his shoulders and back, the utter perfection of the tanned skin like satin over defined muscles. It struck her like an electric current running straight through her body, and she tore her eyes away.

Not before she saw him mouth her name, sound lost over the pounding music, only the shape of those kissable lips: Anita. He didn’t seem to be half as surprised as she was; of course, she’d faded from significance so he probably didn’t care. Somehow the indifference implied in his casualty stung more than anything else could have.

For a moment she thought they would stay on the opposite sides of the room and just pass the whole night like that. It reminded her of the shy eighth grade dances, when the girls and boys huddled in their support groups in two corners of the room and stole covert glances at each other. The few brave ones would try to cross the vast expanse of the multipurpose-room converted dance floor in separating them.

Now he was weaving his way through the dense pack of dancing bodies, and she felt the same way she’d felt then, when her crush of three years slowly traversed the endless distance towards her, to ask her friend to dance. It might’ve been cowardly, but all of a sudden she prayed for someone, anything, to intervene. But no teasing, irritating Jason showed up, Jean-Claude was probably still talking with the owner, and she didn’t know anyone else here.

“Hey,” he said, or she thought he said that because his voice was lost over the stage singer’s sudden scream of lost love, pain, and melodramatic angst. Or maybe it was the noise from the blood rushing through her head, making her slightly faint. “Here for business or for pleasure?”

“Both,” she answered honestly. His hair had grown out again, and he didn’t look very much different from how he’d looked when she’d first met him. In fact, he looked better than he’d had in months, and she wondered how he’d finally made peace with himself.

“How have you been?” Their conversation was uneasy, the complete triteness of that question making it sound almost sarcastic. She was tempted to answer with something like, oh, you know, chasing after serial killers—balancing my nights with the guys—there’s a signup sheet now for what day they want in the week—playing with the big, scary vampires—being screwed over by you.

“Same old,” she said. “The pack?” There’d been a challenge a month ago, the last of a long line of aspiring Ulfrics attracted to St. Louis by the rumors that the current Ulfric was weak and easy prey. The werewolf population had grown most out of all the lycanthropes; she didn’t know half of them now. It wasn’t like there was some preternatural newspaper that announced shifts in ranks in the lycanthropes and the latest election results from vampire politics…and even if there was, she hadn’t picked up a newspaper since college, if even then.

“We’re doing fine.” The quick bright gleam of teeth somehow took away the illusion of humanity. He really had grown into his beast. It lurked just beneath the surface, like a slight crackle of dry electricity.

Two minutes, maybe less, and they’d run out of things to take about. It was like they were on different canyons with no idea of how to build a bridge. She missed the easy familiarity of the early days, when they both clung to their humanity like a lifeline. She didn’t want to hear about how he’d gone camping with half the females in the pack, either. There seemed to be no safe topic between the two of them. Talk about two incredibly fucked up people.

“Say my name,” he said in the small gap of silence, a brief look of perplexity crossing his face. The words came out of nowhere and she knew he was floundering too.

She opened her mouth to reply, answer abruptly choked in her throat. “Why the odd…request?” Her voice sounded unnatural, too flat, even to her. God only knows what he made of it.

“You’re avoiding it, and I don’t know why. I can’t remember the last time I heard you just say, Richard. Not when one of us is about to die within the next few seconds, not when the triumvirate’s falling apart again. Just say my name, Anita.”

She tried to shrug it off and humor him, but suddenly it seemed like the hardest thing in the world to pronounce and she bit down on her lip in refusal. There was the insane thought that if she said his name now it would be like declaring to the world all the things she’d shut away, the mysterious name transformed to a pledge.

“I’ve got to go,” she blurted out instead. “I’m here with Jean-Claude and I think he’s finished now.” But he wasn’t. They hadn’t been here for more than fifteen minutes, and she doubted that even Donald Trump could seal a business transaction in that amount of time.

“Anita…” He grasped her arm to prevent her escape and she turned back around with murder on her mind. All of that was forgotten in the next instant when he bent down, so close, so close…why could he do with a kiss what no one else seemed to do in quite the same way? With Jean-Claude she drowned in passion and something else she wasn’t sure of yet, with Richard she simply drowned. Oddly, throughout the long, breathless moment, the fusion of their mouths, the ripple of excitement as their tongues met…the hollow ache in her chest intensified.

She broke apart from him finally, dimly aware that Jason had finally shown up and that he was standing a few feet away from them, absolutely still with unhappy surprise. A lesser woman might have pushed him away hurriedly, pretending that he’d taken advantage of her and that he was the one that kissed her, not the other way around. And it was true, but she’d responded just as much, so if anyone was guilty, they were both equally to blame.

A vampire’s heart couldn’t break, anyway. She’d completely believed that, just like she’d believed that either she would kill Jean-Claude, or he would kill her. Color flared into her cheeks.

“I still want you, Anita.”

No, no, no. She didn’t want to hear those words, would’ve paid to make him take them back. They were the exact words that some secret, dark part of her wanted to here, and now that part was elated. Ready to jump off the cliff again without looking to see if there were spikes below waiting to impale you.

She loved Jean-Claude without a doubt. One kiss with Richard couldn’t change that, no matter how earthshaking. What was it that she’d told Ronnie, back then? All the roses in the world wouldn’t make up for Richard, and all the hikes in the world wouldn’t be worth sacrificing Jean-Claude. Something like that. It was still mutually exclusive.

She didn’t even understand it herself. There was no way that someone could be equally in love with two people at once. Equality like that didn’t exist. And she’d chosen Jean-Claude, right?

But that was only because you ran from Richard, because Richard wouldn’t have you. So did you choose him, or did you only fall back into his arms after being shoved out of Richard’s?

“I’ve got to go,” she repeated numbly, and tried to step back, away from his overwhelming influence on her senses. There was a low whuff, almost like a whine, behind her, and she whirled around, hand instinctively reaching for the Browning.

It was Jason, and standing next to him was Jean-Claude. As if the sight of him was a special kind of connection, the marks between them, between all three of them, flared. She could sense more from Richard than she wanted to; it had taken him by surprise. She didn’t want to feel his need, his desire for her. But she felt it and it changed her more than all the rest of the times the shields had broken put together, even though she could not say why. She finally admitted it in her mind, then, that she didn’t want the life with a picket fence and the two-point-something children. It would be living a life of hypocrisy. Lies.

From Jean-Claude there was nothing, his shield impenetrable even though she wanted to know what he was thinking. There was a carefully blank look on his face and she knew instantaneously that she had hurt him, that even if he hadn’t seen the kiss he suspected. For a second the mere wisp of a memory surfaced and Anita recoiled—she was not like Belle Morte, she did not toy with the hearts of men. “Mon jouet…Jean-Claude, venez avec moi…” But Jean-Claude had not wanted to obey, had not wanted to leave Asher, to turn him out of her bed because he was no longer perfect in her eyes.

“Then let us depart, ma petite,” came the velvety soft voice, beautiful and completely empty. He held out a hand to her, pale, graceful fingers unnaturally suspended utterly still in midair. She didn’t move and he floated over to her and escorted her away.

She didn’t look back, either, to see what Richard made of it. All three of them were shielding so hard it was almost funny, the triumvirate more afraid of each other than anything else in the world.

* * *

She tried to gauge his mood, after they’d arrived back to the Circus in near silence. He almost seemed to be waiting for something. Waiting for me to leave him? No, of course not, he knows I would never. But the thought clenched her heart peculiarly.

“Will you stay here tonight?” he’d asked as he’d led the way to his rooms, and Anita had almost jerked with surprise.

“Of course.” At least, it was supposed to be ‘of course.’ Their relationship was deep enough that a lot of it operated under assumption. You knew someone when you knew what they wanted and thought and felt as much as you knew yourself. He never asked like that.

I’m his. But he knows that I’m not completely his. There had to be some psychological insecurity with that. But insecurity and Jean-Claude together in one sentence was such a revolutionary concept—he was many things, even a victim, sometimes, but insecure? It was a word mostly reserved for children and angsting teenagers.

“I had planned for Asher to join us,” and here his voice deepened to the sensual purr that made her skin feel like it was too small to contain her, her blood rush through her veins, deprived of oxygen. “But not, I think, tonight.”

As if on cue, her other vampire lover, all gold and brilliant icy blue, stepped into the room. “Jean-Claude? Is anything wrong? I felt, you are—” He stopped abruptly when he caught sight of her, and pale husky orbs took in the dejected slump of her shoulders. Another quick glance at Jean-Claude told him not to ask, though he slipped up to the dark haired vampire and laid gentle hands on tense shoulders.

There was an unvoiced question in Asher’s eyes and an answer of sorts to be found in Jean-Claude’s dark sapphire depths, though the master vampire probably did not realize that he was giving away anything. Asher remained, talented fingers gradually easing the stiff muscles. The silence, if not completely comfortable, at least was companionable.

It was a joy just to see the two of them, Asher and Jean-Claude, as contrasting as day and night. Selected to be a matched pair, a voice in Anita’s mind recalled, and she shied away from the uncomfortable reminder that Belle Morte had admired them in the same way. Then Asher finally finished and turned to face them both.

"Bon soir,” he smiled wickedly, flashing the barest hint of fang. “I seek to satiate other hungers tonight.”

Had Jean-Claude requested that he leave? Anita knew that there was some kind of mental communication between the two, but as to how specific were the messages, she couldn’t say. The alternative seemed even worse: Asher had sensed the tension between them and had decided to leave so that they could not use him as a buffer.

Away from Richard, her world centered itself on Jean-Claude again, her eyes drinking in the graceful curve of his cheeks, the black lace that framed his eyes. She wasn’t sure who had closed the distance first, or if they’d moved towards each other; the next thing she knew, she was in the familiar embrace of his arms and kissing the smooth paleness of his neck.

An idea crossed her mind and she pulled him down slightly. He willingly complied; she could feel his heavy arousal pressed against her and suddenly she was a little bit obsessed with the desire to do something to him to bring expression back into his face. She licked his neck and blew on it, and then bit him, mimicking a vampire’s kiss. It was not quite hard enough to break skin but it was an unexpected pain and he shuddered against her, eyes bleeding to blue within a few moments as she watched with innate satisfaction.

It was her turn to gasp when his hand danced and played on her side, just below her ribs, tracing shivery patterns into her skin. Her senses went hyperactive and the sudden rush of heat was almost humiliating in her susceptibility to him.

He pulled her to the bed and she followed, half falling until he caught her. Fingers brushed across her belly to her breast and he covered the soft mound with the palm of his hand, thumb massaging ever so slightly. Ripples of sensation radiated out from where he touched her, electrifying her, and against her she felt him harden further.

She could feel, slightly, almost imperceptibly, his hand shaking as they smoothed over her skin. His fingers were shaking. He was holding back, but he wanted her so badly he was trembling. She tried to swallow, throat completely dry, heart pounding with utter awareness of her own body, of his.

“You slay me as you love me,” he murmured against her ear, and she wondered if he was borrowing the words from some long-dead poet, or if they were uniquely his own.

And then he was sliding strong, slender fingers between her thighs, urging her to accept him. His body pressed against her slick entrance and then he was inside her, moving slowly. She gasped, arching upward as he held her to him and let his hungry mouth play on her throat, a shadow of what she had done to him earlier. Arms supporting his weight, hips thrusting achingly slow, and then his body twisted, light and deft, and she cried out.

“Jean-Claude…” she breathed. In her veins, her blood pumped too hard and too fast and she clenched around him. “Don’t stop.” Her hands were sliding across the slick skin of his shoulders now, and she could feel the hard, delicate bones beneath his satin skin, the muscles taut.

Their rhythm picked up, endless and long, everything but him obliterated from her mind. She put her hands against his chest, fingers teasing flat pink nubs until they peaked. Jean-Claude moaned softly and pulled away, still moving inside her—she though she could feel every inch of him, sliding through her body—and then he was pressing a hot, needy kiss to her skin, mouth open and wet.


The kisses continued, burning a path into her skin that she didn’t think she could ever forget.


What was in a name? She couldn’t say anything other than his name, soft like melting candy in her mouth, something sweet and dark and forbidden. What was in those words, that they whispered against her mouth, full of death and beauty, like wine and chocolate. She said it again, because it tasted so good.


He moaned something unintelligible into her skin, and then his hand was cupping her face, mouth descending to ravish hers, and she was gone, body shuddering under his, only they were one, and she was falling, tumbling and electrified, over the edge of the cliff. And in the midst of that firestorm, Jean-Claude reached back and pried her hand from where it was clenched on his shoulder, and twined his fingers with hers, pressing their palms together.

He held her hand as she came, and above her own cries, she could hear the crystalline sound of the fragments of a heart chiming, but whether breaking or merging she could not tell.

He held on as he came hard, pulling her into him so violently she thought she would have bruises where he touched her, and his fingers were melded to hers.

* * *

Afterwards they lay together, listening to the sound of their breaths. It was special for him, but she listened anyway. Once, she would have been disturbed by the thought that it was not a necessary function, now, she marveled.

From the corner of her eye, she watched as in slow motion, Jean-Claude reached across the void between them and caught a lock of her hair in his hand. Slowly, slowly, he slid it through his fingers and drew it across the space between them, linking them together, and she couldn’t’ tear her eyes away from the curled strands in his hand. Anita swallowed hard as he brought it to his lips, knowing what those lips felt like on her neck, on her skin, how those lips felt on her own.

“Tonight there was a moment of truth,” he said later, relaxed next to her, a sprawl of long, graceful limbs. “Perhaps more than one.”

“I don’t understand,” she started, lost to his meaning. He put his finger on her lips, a momentary warmth, and she quieted. He smiled enigmatically, and she thought that it was strange how childlike he seemed even though he had lived longer than any human had, how wistful the dim light was in caressing his face.

He said, very quietly, with an unusual degree of seriousness, almost as if he were resigned to some pain, “Je t’aime, ma vérité.”

And she thought she understood, because an eternity ago, he had once said to her that above all she was truth to him, and perhaps if that truth was lost there would be nothing left of his existence, nothing left to live for, live by, no reason. And though it hurt him, he was glad that she could not truthfully say that she did not still love Richard, no matter now much she loved him, and in that painful and bitter truth was some measure of grace.

Je t’aime,” she whispered back, and knew that it was also true that only Jean-Claude had taught her these words, this idea: to love.

* * *

questions or comments?  please email me paranoir2@yahoo.com