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[center Charlemagne wholeheartedly laughed as he listened to Michael speak. [#900 “Shit! Perhaps you do, with that attitude. You can’t just lie down and die, Michael. Where is the fun in that?”] the Frenchman asked, rolling his eyes. He then narrowed his gaze at the other man slightly upon observing the other’s wine consumption. [#900 “And for a man who does not like wine all that much, you sure do like drinking the one I made.”] Charlie smirked, sipping at his own glass to polish it off. The man knew that he could be an arrogant bastard at times. But Charlemagne was proud of his work because in his case he quite literally spent centuries perfecting his craft! And even in modern times, Charlie strived to preserve old, classic wine-making techniques as opposed to automating his work to step up to mass production. It honestly made him sad that people regularly settled for trash wine, but such was life. It was ultimately their loss.]
[center [#900 “And the fact that you still try regardless is a testament to your willpower. If I had more wine, I would give a cheers to that. But the sentiment is still there.”] the Frenchman laughed. [#900 “For that I would not mind being a conduit for learning in the slightest. It would be a great pleasure.,”] he started before he handed off his empty glass to a passerby waiter, [#900 “Although I would wager every last euro I have that a sinfully sordid evening of debauchery would be even greater. But that’s just me.”] Charlie shrugged before he arched a brow at Michael’s anxious response. [#900 “How ironic! So am I! I’ve always been of the opinion that participation is much more fulfilling than just watching.”] Christ, Charlemagne had to admit that he was having too much fun conversing with Michael.]
[center [#900 “And yes, I really would help you out if you wanted me to. I don’t mind at all, Michael. And save your euros. The hysterical conversation is pay enough for me.”] Charlie reached out to give the other man a friendly pat on the arm. [#900 “Or, hear me out,”] Charlie chuckled as he straightened out his coat, [#900 “Traveling to Cassis together to get a bite to eat. I think that’s a great idea!”] Charlie admitted before musing for a moment. [#900 “It would be a wonderful time for lessons because cultural immersion is the best way to learn.”] he added before receiving the paper with Michael’s number on it. Charlie then carefully tucked it away into an inner coat pocket before he took the man’s hand to lead him to one of the libraries that the manor had. [#900 “And as much as I would have enjoyed sleeping with you, you’re quite the lightweight. I guess I’ll have to wait till Cassis then, hm?”] Charlemagne snickered as he guided the man through the throngs of people and away from the activity of the main party.]
[center [#900 “There are a few wonderful books I can think of that just might be of use to you in your French adventures. Plus, there are a lot of history books as well, because you cannot just learn the language, you have to understand the culture as well!”] And thankfully the stroll wasn’t all that long, but when they actually arrived at the library Charlemagne let Michael’s hand go. [#900 “Let me find those books really quick so we can sit and go through them together.”] Charlie mentioned before seemingly melting into the quiet shadows of the room. He knew where the books he wanted were located. It was just a matter of collecting them. [#900 “How long do you plan on being in France anyway? You’ll certainly need a while if you want a quality immersive experience, Michael.”] Charlie spoke, inquisitive as he walked around, setting books he found on the long table in the middle of the room. [#900 “Because most tourists really only stay for a week or two, which is nowhere near enough time, in my opinion…”]]
[size12 Michael found himself chuckling once more. Charlie was quite the character and a hundred percent a pure Frenchman. It was clear by the way he held himself, the way he spoke, and the [i tone] of his voice. Teasing and smooth. [b "Perhaps I need my ass kicked,"] He laughed out, taking another sip of his wine that was beginning to run low. His dislike for wine became less apparent with the more he drank. Michael hadn't drank in so long, he was definitely a lightweight.
He listened to Charlie speak about some other region. He smiled softly, thinking of how much he'd love to actually explore France and all of it's regions. There was no doubt it had beauty, not one soul on this earth could deny that. [b "Cassis, perhaps I will visit sometime. Just for the sake of it being your favorite. You seem to know your stuff."] He found it humorous that Charlie became lost in Czech Republic. Charlie seemed like such a knowledgable man who would never possibly get lost. So, the idea of it was definitely interesting. [b "It'd be interesting to witness you getting lost and just...asking around. I'd also like yoooou to make note that I do give an effort! At least, I try."] He shrugged his shoulders. He tried his best, what could he say? Sure, he should have grabbed the book on 'French for Dummies' before but he didn't. He had to live with what he chose.
[b "That'd be great actually!"] He cheered, feeling a bit honored someone would actually want to spend time to teach him. It'd certainly help him out while he was here. Michael brought the wine glass back up to his lips and nearly choked at the flirtatious tone and words that slithered out of Charlie's mouth. His eyes widened and he found himself just staring at him. Charlie was a beautiful man. His black hair that looked insanely well taken care of, his sultry eyes, his body frame and even his accent and voice alone. Michael did enjoy both genders but, he wasn't one to usually have 'one night' stands or even have a relationship since everything happened with the death of his beloved. Yet, he found himself considering it. [b "I-uh,"] He stammered over his words, scratching the back of his neck. He rocked back onto his heels. No, no there was just no way he could. He threw back the rest of the wine in his glass, not that there was much left to drink. [b " Studying, library, yes. That sounds perfect. And, uhm, voyeur type? Sorry, no. I'd rather not watch. I'd much rather participate."] He admitted, chuckling nervously.
He happened to snag another glass of wine off a waiters tray that was walking by and placed his empty one on it. It certainly wasn't the same kind Charlie had given him but nonetheless, it was leading him into a deeper tip. [b "Would you really help me out? I could use it, a lot. I don't know many and you're really the first one I've talked to. You seem to really know your way around and you could be just...a really big help. Shit, I'd even pay you."] He was running a bit out of funds but to have an actual Frenchman help him? How much luckier could he get? [b "Either way, if you don't want to help me out,"] He sat his wine glass down, slipping out a piece of paper and a pen he had stuffed into the pocket of his shirt underneath is garments. He scribbled down his cell number and handed it over to Charlie. [b "I wouldn't mind grabbing a bite to eat or...even traveling to say, Cassis together?"] He teased the idea, the man did say it was his favorite spot. A personal favorite, that is.
[center Quietly Charlemagne listened to Michael’s responses to his queries, chuckling a bit at the light American arrogance. In Charlie’s experience, that was bound to be expected with an American. But he didn’t mind all that much since he was the same way with being French. But faking a French accent? Charlemagne shook his head at this. [#900 “If you did, every Frenchman here, including myself, would line up to kick your ass to God. Just a fair warning.”] the man snorted at the idea. That was one sure fire way to get looked at strangely, and possibly jumped for being ignorant. [#900 “But I’m going to assume you have some sense of self-preservation. But at least you can thank your lucky stars that you are not English. Now then we might have a problem.”] Because for as long as Charlemagne had been alive he still could not stand the English. Bad blood lasted for centuries, and the Frenchman couldn’t ‘just let it go’ like some have suggested. It just did not work like that.]
[center Sympathy softened Charlie’s expression, though, when he heard about Michael’s mother. He understood the feeling of despair that losing a loved one gave a person. Specifically, the loss of a mother could be difficult to deal with. But the other male began to talk about France and the city of Paris as a whole. [#900 “To be honest with you, I’m not even Parisian and I probably talk a lot of shit about the city just because I can. If you want a true French experience, I’d suggest taking a trip down to Provence. That whole region has real timeless beauty. There’s Avignon, Marseille, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence… Cassis is a personal favorite of mine. But you’d have to spend a lot of time traveling to truly appreciate the country as a whole and not just one region.”] Charlie mused. He seemingly had a million and one recommendations, so those locations were just a minute fraction.]
[center The Frenchman then cringed a little bit, he knew the struggle of being lost in a foreign country all too well. [#900 “Yeah, unfortunately you just cannot expect people to be speaking English here. You must at least show that you’re [i trying] with the language when talking to people here. If people see you are investing effort, they’re more than likely to help you despite that barrier.”] Charlie mentioned. [#900 “If it’s any consolation, one time I got lost in the Czech Republic and struggled for what felt like forever to find my way around, honestly. I was just trying to get to Germany at the very least because I can speak German just fine. But it seemed like everyone I met in the Czech Republic only spoke Czech. It really was not a fun time in the slightest.”]]
[center But with some additional thought and a quick once-over, Charlie sipped at his glass of wine. [#900 “However, there are many ways to learn French if you’re willing. I have time if you’d allow me.”] Charlemagne winked. Was Charlie a flirt? Yes. Did he stop? No. Did he enjoy spending quality time in bed? [i Absolutely.] And if Michael didn’t feel like obliging for whatever reason, that was totally fine. But this was entirely normal behavior for Charlie. [#900 “Although apparently wine culture wouldn’t make for good conversation I’m guessing.”] he stated, shaking his head. [#900 “The library is always a good study spot. Or maybe an office? [i Or are you one of those weird voyeur types?”]] the man inquired, a little bit surprised by the idea of voyeurism. Charlie knew he had his preferences, but voyeurism was never high on the list. But it wasn’t entirely a hard pass. [#900 “I digress, though. But the study session option is still there if you want it…”]]
[size12 Michael listened to Charlie, nodding in agreement. He was sure there was something for everyone. There seemed to be all sorts of people around. It just wasn't Michael's mindset to rush off to taste a bit of every plate. He had something other than food on his mind. He was truly intrigued by Charlie at the moment. He had approached him all on his own, offered him a glass of wine and now? He was trying to make a bit of small talk with him.
Something Michael wasn't expecting was to relax a bit. Maybe it was the wine? Michael wasn't a big alcohol drinker of any kind. It also seemed Charlie was analyzing him more than he was the other, which was comforting somehow. He hadn't felt relaxed and at ease for quite some time. [b "Actually, I'm from what some would call the Great States. I guess I should have tried faking a French accent, hm?"] He chuckled lowly, sipping from the wine once more.
It would appear that an American showing up to a Frenchman's party was a bit odd. [b "My mother was French. She moved to the States early on in her life. She's passed recently so I wanted to come and experience the culture. See why she loved it so much."] He took a breath, smiling at the kindred thought of his mother. [b "I've only been here for a few days. It's easy to get lost, not just from not being around here but...it's a truly beautiful country. Everyone considers this the country of love with Paris being the city of love."] He rolled his eyes, holding back his gag. Love wasn't something Michael dealt with much these days.
[b "Uhm, I have been getting lost a bit, lately. It's difficult to get around when you don't know the language. Everyone just looks at you a bit funny? Sometimes, I get lucky and there is someone that speaks English and can help me out. Usually, I'm on my own."] He shrugged his shoulders and then a thought came into his mind. If this Charlie was a true, pure Frenchman, perhaps he could squeeze out some sort of information? Slow and steady, of course. He still wasn't sure if he was innocent or not. No one could be trusted, especially those who allow Michael to relax.
[center Charlemagne nodded politely when Michael took the wine glass to examine and assess the flavor. The Frenchman watched intently to try and gauge the other’s reaction because this was a new wine that finally came of age recently. Charlie had wanted to try and debut the wine at the party and get sample feedback to see if it was generally acceptable to the public. Because while every wine he made felt like his personal baby, Charlie knew that none of it mattered if nobody else liked the wine he slaved over. He then smirked a little when Michael inquired about him being a connoisseur. [#900 “If by connoisseur you mean master sommelier, then yes. Wine is quite a passion, dare I say.”] the Frenchman responded. Clearly Michael wasn’t French in the slightest. But that was fine. Plenty of the attendees that night were guests from all over. [#900 “And that is entirely understandable. But feel free to peruse the banquet hall. There is a little something for everyone, in my opinion.”]]
[center With that Charlie took a languid sip from his own wine glass, honestly quite proud of his work. Hell, even if nobody liked the wine, Charlemagne figured he could destroy a few bottles and have a [i really] fun night if he truly wanted to. Then the other man went and extended a hand for a proper greeting. Not being one to be rude to guests, Charlie reciprocated the action. [#900 “Charlemagne. But a lot of people call me Charlie for the sake of convenience. Whichever you fancy the most is fine.”] he laughed slightly. How casual people had become in the modern age still astounded him, but it wasn’t all that big of a deal to Charlemagne. It certainly felt a lot easier to deal with that instead of being formal 100% of the time. Now that was exhausting!]
[center For a moment Charlie quietly pondered a thought before arching a brow. [#900 “Unless you’re really good at faking an accent, you can’t be French. Coming to a French party [i in France] and not being much of a wine person? That’s practically as sacrilegious as being a protestant in this country. But you don’t sound English. Anglo-Canadian?,”] Charlemagne mused out loud, [#900 “I don’t know, but that’s awfully suspicious. I’m on to you, Michael.”] he laughed. Yes, Charlie found it quite odd, but he couldn’t really fault Michael on a drink preference no matter how absurd it was. But that didn’t mean that the Frenchman couldn’t give him shit for it.]
[center [#900 “So what brings you around these parts since you’re clearly not here for the wine?...”]]
[size12 Usually, someone's thoughts haunt them at night, late at night, when they are alone with themselves. Yet, here Michael was sitting in a petite French diner replaying the scenes over and over again in his head. He'd arrived home at his parents after dropping his little sister off at a friend's house. He didn't think anything of it when the front door was left open. It was common for them to allow the evening breeze in through the front screen door. What wasn't common was for them to be up past eight o'clock.
He trod lightly, his voice echoing throughout the house. [b "Ma, I'm home. Where are you guys?"] He checked the living room and there was no sign of them. The television was still on playing the late-night Jeopardy. He clicked it off and decided to check his parent's bedrooms upstairs. He hummed the tune of the last song on the radio as he came to their bedroom door. He placed his hand on the knob and was about to turn it when he felt a liquid that was keeping him from fully turning the knob. He pulled his hand away and it was covered in a rust-colored liquid. That was enough for him to grab the edge of his shirt and wrap it around the knob, thrusting his way into the room.
His eyes nearly bulged out of his sockets and his heart sank to the floor. Everything from that moment seemed to merge. The blood splattered up onto the walls and over their family photos that hung above the bed, their bodies lying across one another like they were holding each other in their last moments. What was the most astonishing thing was how [i thin] they were. His father, especially, was a much burlier man and now? Now he was skin and bones. He had run to them and grabbed their bodies. He pulled them towards him, cradling them in his arms. His mother's arms had cuts all over them and then he noticed it, the two holes that lined both his parents' throats. There was only one answer,
[center The truly immortal: vampires.]
His mother had been talking about them nonstop for the past month. His whole family had blown her off, saying it was just her getting older and senile. He regretted everything he'd said to her the past month. He wished he could have taken her more seriously and warned them all that his mother spoke nothing but the truth.
When he had called the police and they came out to file the report and collect the bodies, he explained the situation. The police didn't believe a word he said about vampires. They even forced his little sister to go into a foster home while he got evaluated by professionals. They hardly investigated the incident and after weeks of trying to convince them, he needed to take matters into his own hands.
Now here he was, almost a year after their deaths and he was attending a [i party]. Some would think he was crazy and totally over their death but in reality, he was on a mission. He'd heard of these parties being hosted by...[i them] but he couldn't even confirm it. He had his suspicions about who was one and who wasn't. He thought this party would be able to give him some clarification on who was. Unfortunately, it proved to be wrong. Everyone acted the same, seemed the same, there was no difference between them.
His hands were folded in front of him, eyes scanning the crowds. He tapped his dress shoe on the ground if only there were dead giveaways for who was one. Even if he found one, it wouldn't be a for-sure deal it was them who murdered his parents but it would be one hell of a lead.
His eyes flicked over to a man approaching him steadily. His hair was extremely long, something he hadn't seen on a man for a while. He looked...ancient? Then again, everyone around him looked ancient. He found himself chuckling to himself, perhaps he was crazy.
He accepted the glass, swirling it around a bit in his hand. [b "Hm, thank you."] He brought the glass to his lips, keeping eye contact on the male. He tasted the wine, rolling it around on his tongue to get a feel for it. Honestly, he wasn't [i too] much of a wine guy. He had to admit, the flavor was certainly decadent. [b "Are you some big wine connoisseur?"] He popped a brow up in suspicion, taking another small sip of the wine. He cleared his throat, [b "I'll pass on the lamb. I'm not a big fan of that kind of meat. Thanks though."]
For a moment, he thought he should end the conversation there. He wasn't interested in talking about wines or what would go best with a [i fine cabernet]. Yet, this was his best chance to find out who exactly is hosting this party and who knows, maybe this mysterious man could assist him in some way.
He focused back on him, extending his hand. [b "Call me Michael, definitely not a big wine guy and you are...?"]
[center The world truly could be a cruel place. Vicious. Unforgiving. [i Unrelenting.] And it stopped for nobody no matter who they were. For quiet some time, or what felt like an eternity to Charlemagne, he felt a deep and crippling sense of despair at the idea of immortality. As a human, the Frenchman remembered being a not-so-pious person. Although he did have an underlying fear of God, Charlemagne spat in the face of purity rules. He was what was now called a womanizer and a maneater. Charlie bedded many men and women in his time without much concern as all he cared about was the pleasurable debauchery. It was how he had met the man who eventually was the one to steal his mortality. And while Charlemagne accepted his condition a long time ago, he was still quite angry over how his creator had gone about the process. What was meant to be a night of loving seduction had spiraled into agonizing torture. It wasn’t something that Charlie could ever forget. But he had been able to get some sort of closure when the person who made him a vampire had been killed only years afterward.]
[center And after his creator died Charlemagne had spent a handful of years wandering around the European continent as he dealt with his depression as it ebbed and flowed during that time. It wasn’t until he returned to France after roughly a half century of roaming around that he was taken in by a coven in Paris. And that was not by choice either. Then, Charlemagne was still horribly ornery and did not wanted to be associated with much of anyone. But the coven saw him as a lone countryman who required guidance whether he wanted that assistance or not. And they did not want Charlemagne to go around as a young vampire and risk exposing their kind to the mortal world they lived in. It was a tough transition to being alone and suddenly being surrounded with individuals seemingly so like himself. But eventually Charlemagne did come to regard those in the coven as his family as they helped him become less distressed about facing immortality. And he wouldn’t have to do it alone!]
[center One thing that the coven liked to do was throw extravagant soirees every so often. The intricate details and sheer amount of supplies required demanded extensive planning in advance. While there were typically themes for each party, there had always been a feeling of old-world whimsy no matter what the actual year was. And this was especially so in the modern times. It was a bit easier to hold such events due to the convenient communication and transportation methods that the twentieth and twenty-first century blessed them with. Plus, it appeared that the humans who attended were in love with the romanticized idea of eighteenth-century style parties due to the perceived novelty. It was almost cute how they thought it was such a beautiful time when all they knew was the art and luxuries of the time. They didn’t know just how dark such a period in history was. But the coven typically did not bother themselves about the blissful ignorance of their human counterparts.]
[center And that night there was a fairly large soiree in which both mortals and the coven were to mingle. Sure, a handful of other species were invited, but not everyone would attend for one reason or another. Just like humans, the undead had their own drama and issues to handle with each other. Charlemagne was quite excited, though, because he really enjoyed the elegant clothing the soiree’s dress code required. It felt natural, comfortable. The familiarity was comforting in a way. That paired with his waist-length hair, such an aesthetic was easily achievable. And Charlie just loved the fashion! But, he knew that was definitely the old man in him being a creature of habit. But when the man did dress in such a way unironically, Charlemagne always said he was a theater fanatic. That was certainly a truth. But it was the safer explanation to give of the two he had available to him.]
[center With throngs of people pouring into a château styled manor, Charlie was hard at work on making sure that the coven’s guests were adequately attended to and had wine to drink if that is what they chose. The Frenchman was incredibly proud of the wines as it was something he assisted in crafting personally. As a human he was a sommelier who did business with aristocrats and royals all across Europe. And as an immortal, his love for crafting the finest of drinks was an activity Charlie involved himself with on the daily. It was his first of several passions. Others included cooking, playing a variety of instruments, and acting. It helped occupy his time which he had more than enough of to use.]
[center But as Charlie went around and mingled with attendees a particular male stood out to him. He looked like he was marginally out of place, but Charlemagne could not pin down the reason as to why he felt such a way. But the mystery man did not have a drink in hand. Given this fact Charlie, with two crystal wine glasses in hand, made his way over to where the other was standing.]
[center [#900 “Excuse me, sir. I could not help but notice that you did not have a drink. May I interest you in a fine cabernet?”] Charlemagne offered, extending one glass out to the man to receive. [#900 “You strike me as a red wine kind of man.”] the male noted. [#900 “I’d recommend trying the lamb that is being served to go with that wine though. The mingling flavors are quite extraordinary if you ask me…”]]
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