Hong Kong, 1977: Julian

Sometimes, as he watched the people moving here and there, scurrying through their lives, it occurred to him that they had absolutely no idea what they wanted. They wanted so much, too much, or at least they thought they wanted it. Then once they'd tried it, they found that it wasn't really what they'd wanted in the first place.

Sometimes he envied them. They, at least, could change their mind. They weren't stuck living with the consequences of an ill-considered choice.

He smiled bitterly. Live forever; it sounded like such a bright, glittering promise. Never grow old, never weaken, never die.

How little they understood. Once the choice was made, it was true you would never die. But all other things could and did, and one by one you were forced to watch as everything around you crumbled to dust. Everything you'd ever known, everyone you'd ever loved, gone forever.

It was no wonder so many of his kind went mad, deprived of everything that had ever made them who they were. Everything that had ever given them a reason to live. Even those who believed they needed nothing and no one never truly understood just how much they needed until it was gone. Of course, he wasn't really sure they understood it even then, because that was the point when they ceased to be men, and became monsters instead.

Very, very few of them ever managed to keep their sanity intact once they finally realized. He knew there were only a handful in the entire world, and of those most tended to extreme isolation, preferring to avoid having to watch all that they cared about wither and die time and time again.

He himself had considered such a course many times over the years, but had never quite been able to bring himself to do it. The loneliness would break him far faster than the pain of losing everything ever could. So instead he made his own path, his own method of coping.

He watched.

All around him life went on, helter skelter, and he watched. Once, he had found himself watching a particular family for four generations before finally getting bored enough to move on to other things. It was a detached sort of curiosity, seeing but never really being a part of it all, but to get any closer would be to risk falling into the madness that ever lurked, waiting, biding its time before it pulled him in. Perhaps some day it would finally claim him, and those who had chosen the hermit's way would nod sagely and say that it was only to be expected. It was impossible to balance forever on the edge of a precipice without some day falling in. Either one had to avoid life altogether, or embrace it.

Most took the easy path, and chose to avoid it. He walked the fine line between, neither apart from the world or a part of it. Then there was one who had somehow managed to embrace it, and yet still had not fallen into madness.

Or perhaps he had simply been mad to begin with.


He oofed quietly as a firm body collided with his own, sending them both crashing to the rooftop from which he'd been observing the city. As usual, he somehow managed to wind up on the bottom, pinned securely beneath a grinning, bright-eyed body.

He really hated that grin. Vampires should not grin.

"Get off."

Sebastian's grin only widened and he settled himself more comfortably over Julian's hips. "Missed you too. But you're going to love what I found this time!"

Julian closed his eyes and counted slowly to sixteen, in Ancient Macedonian. "If you do not get off of me this instant I am going to rip out your throat and bathe in your dying blood before feeding your entrails to the dogs."

There was far too much brilliant, slightly-exasperated blue as Sebastian rolled his so expressive eyes. "Somebody woke up on the wrong side of the coffin this evening," he said, and ignored Julian's threats in favor of bracing his arms on Julian's chest and leaning down until their noses were nearly touching. "You were thinking again, weren't you?" he asked, his voice softer, somehow, than it had been before.

For a moment Julian's lips tightened and he gathered the words to deny it, staring up into Sebastian's so bright eyes (blue, so blue, like the sky he only remembered from books and paintings) then he turned his head and looked away. Defeated, again.

"Mmm, thought so," Sebastian murmured, squirming just a bit so that he could lie flat upon Julian, his head on Julian's shoulder. "You think too much."

"You think too little," Julian snapped back, though without any real heat. Anyone else who dared to get so close to him, to touch him, would have been long dead. Sebastian, as ever, defied convention.

"Probably," Sebastian agreed cheerfully, stealing a quick, daring kiss before bouncing to his feet and offering Julian a hand up. Julian was tempted to simply ignore it, but then Sebastian gave him that crooked, happy smile, and with a reluctant sigh he accepted the help.

Accepting the hand up, however, did not mean he'd given Sebastian permission to grope him once he was back on his feet.

Julian bared his fangs and took a step back, away from the touch that would send him into madness far more swiftly than anything else. "You test your luck, child."

"Mmm hmm," Sebastian agreed absently, already invading Julian's space again to slip his hand into Julian's own and tug him away from the roof's edge. "Come on, Mr. Grumpy Fangs. We'll get breakfast then I'll show you what I found, mmkay?"

"I hate you," Julian muttered, but he went without a fight as Sebastian dragged him down from his rooftop and back into the world he ever watched, but was never a part of.

Except for when Sebastian decided otherwise.